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Does Marijuana Aid or Trigger Psychosis?

September 1, 2020

While you can utilize your medical marijuana card to legally use cannabis for managing a medical condition, it may need more caution in certain illnesses.

Cannabis use may cause an early onset of psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia. 

Early usage of cannabis, especially during teenage, creates a greater chance of developing an inclination towards psychosis among users. Perhaps our brain is still evolving during this time, and its best to avoid using cannabis in this period.

But, I am not just going to leave you to that. 

There are a few studies in this relevance that discusses the particulars of how cannabis affects our brain in psychotic disorders.

Although there isn’t any particular reason of what causes the onset of a psychotic illness. A traumatic past experience, substance abuse, and family history of the illness are some general traits linked with the patients. 

National Institute of Mental Health, suggests that about one Lakh people in a year experience their first psychotic episode, in the United States. 

Typically, the onset of psychosis occurs in the late teens or early twenties in both men and women, with a few people in the lesser part of the spectrum having their first episodes in late adulthood.

Using cannabis may lead to showing these symptoms 2-3years early in life. However, cannabis helps in managing other mental illnesses such as PTSD and depression, 420 doctors cautiously prescribe cannabis products with the right ingredients and closely monitor the patient’s response.

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis refers to an umbrella of symptoms that causes impaired thinking, disrupted thoughts, and even hallucinations in some cases. In psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia, patients may see or hear things that aren’t there or have disrupted thoughts, which makes it hard for them to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t.

A person might develop false beliefs or experience delusions as a result of abnormal activities in the key areas of the brain.

The Link Between THC and Psychosis

Studies linked with cannabis shows that it is one of the most commonly misused substances among schizophrenia patients.

Researchers also found that youngsters are usually associated with cannabis use as they are looking for a vent to ease the symptoms with the herb.

At the same time, they might not realize that cannabis could worsen these traits. The psychotic effects linked with cannabis use are due to THC(tetrahydrocannabinol), which is one of the 113 other cannabinoids found in the herb. The chemical structure of THC is similar to anandamide, a neurotransmitter found in our brain, due to which our body recognizes it and allows it to make alterations in normal brain functions. 

When you are high on cannabis, you experience psychotic symptoms or something similar, that wears off as the effect goes away. These symptoms vary from person to person. People who are more inclined towards developing a psychotic illness could experience adverse effects with cannabis use, as THC could enhance these symptoms.

CBD and It’s Therapeutic Effect

While THC is found to enhance psychosis among users, CBD(cannabidiol), which is another cannabinoid found in cannabis, seems to combat this effect. CBD is the nonintoxicating ingredient of cannabis which continues to draw attention as a potential compound for treating various medical conditions such as, epilepsy, and cancer.

Epidiolex contains CBD as an active ingredient, is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug, which is used as an anti-epileptic medicine, in the treatment of two rare kinds of epilepsy, found in infants; Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

Anti-psychotic effects of CBD were noticed through a brain imaging study, showing that, a single dose of CBD can reduce abnormal brain activity in patients going through psychosis.

Psychosis involves a number of symptoms which is characterized by detachment from reality. It may involve hallucinations and could be triggered by trauma, substance abuse, or even lack of sleep.

This case study involved 33 participants who were experiencing psychotic symptoms. Few of them were given a 600mg dosage of CBD, which was effective on psychosis in previous studies, and the rest were given a similar-looking placebo pill. A group of healthy participants was also involved in this study, acting as a control group. 

All of these participants went through a memory test followed by a brain imaging scan to notice the effects. Using an MRI scanner their brain activities were observed.

The patients undergoing psychosis showed an abnormal brain activity as compared to the healthy brain(from participants of the control group). This much was expected, but the patients who consumed CBD showed lesser severe abnormalities as compared to the patients who consumed a placebo pill.

This suggests that CBD helps in resetting the abnormal activities in the brain areas(medial temporal cortex, the striatum, and midbrain). 

Although this was a small scale study and researchers noted that temporary alteration in cerebral perfusion could be made due to the consumption of a psychoactive drug.

However, the next step is already underway and a large scale human trial could determine better if CBD is a viable treatment for psychosis.

Who Are More Prone to Developing Psychosis With Cannabis(THC) Use?

  • People who have a family history of any psychotic illness should avoid consuming cannabis.
  • It’s wise for teens to avoid using cannabis to allow the natural development of the brain. 
  • If you have had a psychotic episode or have schizophrenia, don’t use marijuana.

Conclusion:

CBD has shown a positive response towards reducing the abnormal brain activity in psychosis and seems safe and well-tolerated. Although more studies are needed to affirm its usage as an effective antipsychotic. While THC has been related to the onset of psychotic symptoms among some users, CBD is turning out to be its contrary counterpart.

If CBD comes out to be effective in treating psychotic illnesses, it would highlight yet another mysterious nature of the plant that we are now slowly starting to understand.

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