Can use of marijuana contribute to the development of psychosis? Most studies say “yes.” Not only can large dose use of the drug create psychotic symptoms in the user, but chronic use can also trigger symptoms of serious mental health disorders.
Does this mean that everyone who uses marijuana will develop psychotic symptoms? No. Nor does it mean that everyone who experiences psychotic symptoms has used marijuana. But use of the drug has been shown to be a component cause in the development of psychosis, adding one more thing to the ever-growing list of reasons why marijuana is not a harmless drug.
Schizophreniform Diagnoses and Bipolar Disorder
There is evidence to suggest that chronic or heavy use of marijuana can contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. One study published in the journal World Psychiatry found that the connection was not due to patients using marijuana in an effort to self-medicate their existing symptoms, indicating that regular use of the drug can trigger these symptoms in patients who did not previously experience them.
Why does this occur? We know that psychotic disorders manifest when there is a disturbance in the dopamine neurotransmitter system. We also know that marijuana use affects this system. It is believed that people who are predisposed to the development of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder due to a familial predisposition may trigger the onset of the disorder with marijuana use.
In most studies, research is based on the effects of smoking marijuana only. Little research has been done to determine how the use of edible marijuana impacts the brain or the body. However, with new legalization laws come many marijuana edible products, candies, and pastries sold to the public, each with varying levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The risk of marijuana edibles comes, for the most part, in dosage. Levels of THC vary but there are guidelines of how much equates with a single serving. The uninitiated may take that amount and, when they do not feel the effects right away, they may take more – too much more.
One man in Colorado reportedly admitted to killing his wife after eating marijuana. Another jumped to his death after eating six times the recommended amount of a marijuana- laced cookie product. Both were reportedly exhibiting psychotic behavior after taking the drug.
Certainly when symptoms of psychosis are related to acutely high doses of marijuana intake as in the case of marijuana edible overuse, stopping use of the drug can effectively end the problem. However, when chronic use of marijuana triggers the development of ongoing psychotic symptoms characteristic of a schizophreniform or bipolar disorder diagnosis, then dual diagnosis treatment is necessary to help the patient overcome both their dependence upon marijuana and their mental health disorder.
Dual diagnosis rehab offers:
- Medical supervision for detox, if necessary
- Extensive diagnostic intake to accurately assess mental health symptoms
- Psychiatric treatment for the mental health disorder
- Medical monitoring while stabilizing on medication, if necessary
- Psychotherapeutic treatment that provides coping skills to manage the mental health disorder as well as relapse prevention assistance
Here at The Canyon, we offer dual diagnosis treatment to those who are experiencing both mental health symptoms and difficulty with stopping their use of any substance. Contact us today to learn more about our program and how it can help your loved one heal.