Teens Who Use Marijuana Risk Higher Chance of Psychotic Disorders


A new study unveiled last week highlights connections between teenage marijuana use and a heightened risk of serious mental health disorders.

Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered that teenagers who used marijuana in the past year were 11 times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder compared to their non-using peers, NBC News reported. The findings were published in the journal Psychological Medicine and made public on Wednesday.

“When I see youths with psychotic symptoms, they’re almost always using lots of cannabis,” stated Dr. Leslie Hulvershorn, chair of the psychiatry department at Indiana University and child psychiatrist. “It would be unusual to see someone present with psychotic symptoms to a hospital and not have smoked cannabis.”

This research underscores the detrimental health implications associated with marijuana use during adolescence. Issues linked to teenage marijuana use include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and suicidal thoughts.

“I think that there’s enough evidence out there for us to give recommendations that teens probably shouldn’t be using cannabis,” said Andre McDonald, the study’s lead author. “If we can somehow ask teens to delay their use until their brain has developed a little further, I think that would be good for public health.”

In addition, multiple studies recent years have confirmed the association between marijuana use and adverse mental health conditions. While some research has suggested that these disorders might drive the need to use marijuana rather than marijuana causing mental health issues, Hulvershorn dismissed this idea based on the significant findings of the current study.

“The magnitude of the effect here is just hard to believe that it’s not related to cannabis,” Hulvershorn remarked.

The study also determined that the link between psychosis and marijuana use was exclusive to teenagers, NBC News reported. People aged 20 to 33 who used marijuana did not show any correlation with psychotic disorders. This finding is consistent with previous research.

In a prior study co-authored by Hulvershorn, researchers found a connection between “cannabis use in teenage years and negative mental health outcomes such as mental illness, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Addiction to cannabis is known as cannabis use disorder (CUD). CUD is increasingly common, with peak risk for developing CUD occurring during teenage years.”

This earlier research also indicated that using marijuana as a teenager increases the “risk of addiction in general.”

Other medical experts echoed the study’s conclusions.

“There’s something about that stage of brain development that we haven’t yet fully characterized — where there’s a window of time where cannabis use may increase the risk of psychosis,” said Dr. Kevin Gray, a professor of psychiatry and director of addiction sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“This study really emphasizes that delaying cannabis use until your 20s might mitigate one of the most severe risks,” said Gray, who was not involved in the recent research.

Among the teenagers in the study who were hospitalized for psychotic disorders, around 83% reported having used marijuana previously.

“We see this replicated over and over again that there’s this developmental window of adolescence that’s very high-risk,” Gray concluded.

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