First Time Marijuana Use Can Result in Crippling Mental Illness
On February 2, 2017, Psychiatrist.com published the case of a 20-year old man who went into psychosis from first time marijuana use. The paper reveals: “Several first-time, non-chronic cannabis users have presented to our clinic with psychosis or thought disorders lasting months after first- or second-time cannabis use.” The authors work at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Why do some people have a predisposition for psychosis and schizophrenia from marijuana use? It can’t entirely be explained coming from a family with history of mental illness. Another case study of a young man with bipolar had no family history for mental illness. His diagnosis of bipolar disorder seems uniquely connected to the marijuana use. These cases are familiar to families involved with Parents Opposed to Pot.
Some research suggests that those with the c/c variant of the AKT1 gene are more susceptible to schizophrenia if they use marijuana. Those with the Val/Val or Val/Met variants of the COMT gene appear more likely to be susceptible than those with the Met/Met variant of COMT. Other variables include age of starting to use pot, frequency of use and the strength of the marijuana.
Seriously, how many young people know their AKT1 and COMT gene variations before they start using marijuana? And there are many additional genetic factors, yet to be isolated, that clearly contribute to susceptibility in others.
Why isn’t NORML, Marijuana Policy Project or Drug Policy Action educating youth about these hidden risk factors? It can ruin someone’s life if they use marijuana and it turns out they are one of the unfortunate. NORML has always known of this link to schizophrenia. Drug Policy Action dismisses at current science with an evasive explanation on their website.
A comprehensive study from Finland suggests the risk with marijuana for a chronic schizophrenia spectrum disorder from marijuana use is far greater than with any other drug.
Anyways, genetics isn’t foolproof either. Many women still get breast cancer even if they don’t have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variations known to raise susceptibility. The best option for avoiding a mental health disorder related to marijuana is complete avoidance of marijuana.
Currently, the average strength of marijuana sold in Colorado and Washington is more than 20% THC. This means it is 5-10 times stronger than the marijuana of the ’70s and ’80s. One Washington hospital announced last April that it has 1-2 new psychosis patients every day. Legal, regulated markets increase rather than decrease the risk.
Read our other articles on the marijuana-psychosis connection: Is Marijuana a Safe Drug?
In January, the National Academy of Sciences released a comprehensive review of multiple studies on marijuana. The report is available here.