Marijuana and Psychosis: How Cannabis Can Treat or Trigger Psychosis
Marijuana-induced psychosis remains unknown to most people. Psychosis is a mental health condition that occurs when someone begins to lose touch with reality and experiences visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions.
It’s important to make the distinction that psychosis is more of a symptom of a mental health disorder, rather than an illness by itself. Psychosis is often linked to substance abuse or an underlying mental or physical illnesses. For example, schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that sometimes includes psychosis as a symptom of the condition.
A report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine presented evidence that people who use large amounts of marijuana frequently are more likely to trigger psychotic symptoms. If someone has an underlying or diagnosed mental health disorder and a co-occurring marijuana use disorder, they risk worsening the symptoms of the disorder.
Some research has found that even if someone quits using marijuana, the psychotic symptoms can still exist. Marijuana can be thought of as the catalyst that caused the onset of psychiatric symptoms but not necessarily the sole cause of the condition. When using marijuana, people should consider if they buy the drug off the streets in an unregulated marketplace, they don’t necessarily know what else it might contain.
Similar to natural cannabis, a synthetic cannabis-induced psychosis can trigger pre-existing mental conditions and cause the onset of the disorder to occur earlier. The psychosis symptoms could be resolved once someone quits using synthetic cannabis unless they had an underlying mental health disorder like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of a synthetic cannabis-induced psychosis may include paranoia, thought disorders and suicidal ideations.
Synthetic cannabis is often mixed with other psychoactive drugs, so researchers found that it can be difficult to attribute which substance causes the psychotic symptoms. It is still unknown if it’s the drugs that cause the psychotic symptoms or someone’s predisposition for mental health conditions, but it was determined that drugs like synthetic cannabis could trigger these symptoms or cause an early onset of symptoms to occur.
People who use marijuana regularly or have a marijuana use disorder are also at a higher risk for developing psychotic symptoms. Researchers have also found that age can be a risk factor in the development of psychotic symptoms from marijuana use. Adolescents who use marijuana or have a marijuana use disorder are at a higher risk of developing marijuana-induced psychosis or triggering an onset of a mental health disorder.
Researchers are conducting more studies using CBD oil with the hopes of using it as an antipsychotic treatment. Another promising characteristic of CBD is that it’s not psychoactive and is not known to cause dependence or addiction. In the United States, CBD oil is licensed for treating rare epilepsy cases in children.
The first step for treating marijuana psychosis is to go through detoxification to rid the body of the toxins from marijuana. Abstaining from marijuana use typically resolves most cases of marijuana-induced psychosis. However, if psychotic symptoms persist, treatment providers may choose to use medications to manage these symptoms. It’s essential to medically detox at a treatment facility to avoid the discomfort and dangerous side effects of withdrawal.
After detox completes, the patient may enter an inpatient or outpatient program depending on the severity of their addiction. The severity of their psychotic symptoms may also determine the type of treatment plan that the rehab facility creates. A patient’s treatment plan will likely consist of a type of therapy and medication to manage their psychotic symptoms. The kind of therapy a clinician chooses to use is determined by a patient’s:
In addition to therapy treatment, patients may also be prescribed medications to manage the psychotic symptoms they’re experiencing. The type of medications prescribed includes antipsychotic medications, like Abilify and Zyprexa, antidepressants, like Prozac and Zoloft; and anti-anxiety medications, like Paxil and Celexa.
If you or someone you know struggles with a substance use disorder and psychotic symptoms, help is available. At The Recovery Village, a team of professionals can design an individualized treatment plan to address your specific disorders. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which treatment program could work for you.
Matthews-King, Alex. “Cannabis Extract Could Provide ‘New Class of Treatment’ For Psychosis.” Independent.co.uk. December 15th, 2017. December 4th, 2018.
Roberto, Aaron J. et al. “First-Episode of Synthetic Cannabinoid-Induced Psychosis in a Young Adult, Successfully Managed with Hospitalization and Risperidone.” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. June 26th, 2016. December 4th, 2018.
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