Marijuana and Psychosis: Which is the Chicken and Which is the Egg?

by Kristina Bullard, BSN, RN on May 24, 2013 · 9 comments

in substance abuse

Has anyone noticed the phenomena of teens discussing drug use as if it’s no big deal?

"Marijuana plants"From Facebook and Twitter feeds to t-shirts, glorifying drug use seems to be a growing trend. It’s astounding to hear what a casual topic it has become. From new ways to ingest alcohol to the latest fads in drugs, including bath salts, candy weed and molly, the trend seems to be changing by the minute. However, one drug seems to be a growing staple among teens and young adults: marijuana.

I find myself thinking, “If only they understood the affect it can have on their mental health.”

During my experience as a mental health nurse, I have seen a number of young adults who admit to the hospital with an extensive history of marijuana use. More times than not, they also present with psychotic symptoms. It got me thinking, “What comes first: the marijuana or the psychosis?” As I became more intrigued, I started to seek out my colleagues for their opinion, and as I did, it became clear that this version of “the chicken and the egg” is a hot topic in the mental health field.

What the research says

A literature review by D’Souza, Sewell and Ranganathan (2009) explores marijuana as a causal factor for psychotic disorders. All of the studies reviewed suggest that as marijuana use increases, the risk for psychotic disorders also increases.

Manrique-Garcia et al. (2012) conducted a study that concluded there is three times more risk for schizophrenia in those who use marijuana frequently.

However, many other studies have been inconclusive. Findings are mixed, making it difficult to determine the nature of the relationship between marijuana and psychosis.

Like many topics in mental health, there is obviously more to be desired in terms of research into drug use. When will research be able to describe the exact relationship between marijuana and psychosis? Although I cannot predict when, I know that the answer will greatly impact the mental health community.

What to do about it?

<Keep Off Grass sign>Regardless of the nature of the relationship, the public is in great need of education regarding this topic. Drug education and awareness programs are already a part of public school systems; yet, teens and young adults continue to use marijuana and other illicit substances. What are we missing?

I would argue that the mental health component may be the missing link. Educating our youth on the lasting effects that marijuana can have on one’s mental health, including IQ, suicide risk, psychosis and other substance addictions, may hit a nerve that has not yet been reached. Still, we all know that many teens may continue to have the mindset that “It won’t happen to me.”

As for me, I will continue to do what I can to impact change. This means educating not only my patients but family and friends. My hope is that the education I provide will touch someone in a way that the knowledge continues to spread.

I challenge you to think about what you can do to make a difference in the lives of our youth to help prevent them from becoming our future patients.

Be Sociable, Share!