A review of existing research published recently by the journal, Addiction, has concluded that there is but a low chance that using cannabis will cause psychosis. Ian Hamilton, who lectures on mental health at the University of York, believes that preventing people from partaking of the drug would have a negligible effect on mental health. The review was published on 4 April – written the US way, that’s 4/20: International Cannabis Day. 420 is a mainstay of cannabis culture.
Psychosis is detachment from reality in the form of delusions, hallucinations or both. Often stemming from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it can leave people so severely affected that they kill themselves or harm others at the behest of the voices in their heads.
Not much risk
Hamilton told the Indie that some folk have been seeking desperately to prove that cannabis use will cause psychosis since the drug came into fashion way back in the 60s. His review has found that there is precious little increase in risk: a study led by the University of Bristol determined that 23,000 people would have to stop using cannabis to prevent a single case of psychosis.
Hamilton did, however, give some of what he termed “caveats.”
Firstly, most studies took place when the strength of cannabis was lower. In the last 20 years, the strength of cannabis seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration has risen from four to 12 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – what makes you stoned). And now there is skunk, which is more potent; skunk has more THC, which can cause psychosis, and less cannabidiol, which protects against it. Hamilton described not knowing the long-term risks of stronger dope as “a mass population experiment.”
Hamilton acknowledged that cannabis users were more likely to have mental health problems. Nine percent of users get through 73 percent of cannabis. Cannabis might not cause psychosis much, but it does worsen schizophrenia.
Hamilton’s solution is legalisation and quality control, with labelling showing the strength of cannabis, which people can now only discover through consumption.
Public Health England revealed that more young people – those aged from nine to 17 – go to treatment centres because of a problem with cannabis than all other drugs put together, including alcohol. There were 9,000 under-18s in treatment in 2006, compared to 13,400 in 2015.
While 23,000 people would have to abstain from toking to prevent one case of psychosis, Suzi Gage, a senior research associate at Bristol University, pointed out that this could be targeted if it was known just what increases the risk, and targeted campaigns are more effective. Youngsters whose families feature mental illness are most at risk. And males are in four times as much danger as females, based on hospital admissions for cannabis psychosis, which Hamilton found out from NHS records. This could be because oestrogen protects against cannabis or perhaps women are less likely to seek hospital treatment, even if the psychosis is bad; cannabis is certainly linked to hormones, with regular usage causing great drops in the testosterone of men, negatively impacting fertility.
The worst thing about cannabis, sayeth Hamilton, is that it’s commonly mixed with tobacco, and that’s really bad.