Positive Proof: Marijuana Can Trigger Psychosis
By: Beth McHugh 2010
British doctors at King’s College London have provided positive proof via brain scans that marijuana triggers psychotic symptoms in some people, a belief long suspected but finally proven in recent studies.
Marijuana is such a widely used drug that, even at high school level, researchers are hard pressed to find students who have never experimented with the drug. This is why the present finding is of such importance.
The drug of choice for teenagers and young adults, marijuana contains
cannabidiol, or CBD, which provides the relaxed feeling that is one
the primary reason for smoking the drug. While this compound shows little
or no damaging effect on the brain, it is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol,
that is responsible for producing temporary psychotic episodes, including
hallucinations and paranoid delusions, in susceptible individuals.
This comes as no surprise to social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists who work with patients with drug-induced psychosis. However, prior to these findings, the effects of marijuana were all hearsay. Finally, concrete proof has arrived.
MRI images of subjects who were given THC showed that the drug interfered with a region of the brain called the inferior frontal cortex. This section of the brain is associated with paranoia. Dr. Philip McGuire, a professor of psychiatry at King’s College, stated that THC has the effect of turning off the brain’s regulatory function that keeps paranoid thoughts under control in normal subjects.
And if that’s not bad enough news, doctors at Yale have found that marijuana increases psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia. Many schizophrenic patients use marihuana claiming that it calms them, however scientists found the exact opposite. Dr. Deepak D’Souza, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale, found that cannabis is detrimental to sufferers of schizophrenia. So much so that the study had to be discontinued for ethical reasons as the effect of the drug was so dramatic.
This begs the question as to why so many people with schizophrenia continue to use the drug given that it actually makes the condition worse. Possibly the short term benefit of the temporary calming effect of CBD provides the attraction of the drug. However, the ultimate price is a higher incidence of psychotic episodes.