Young men with severe cannabis addiction are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, a new study suggests. Experts estimate that nearly a third of schizophrenia cases in 21-30 year olds were caused by a cannabis use disorder.
It is believed that a disorder in the use of cannabis affects about 1 in 200 people, and refers to problematic cannabis use where people are unable to control their intake and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.
A new study led by Danish researchers analyzed the health records of nearly seven million people over the age of 50 and found a strong link between schizophrenia and serious marijuana addiction. As many as 30 percent of schizophrenia cases in men aged 21 to 30 and 15 percent of cases in 16 to 49 year olds could have been prevented by tackling cannabis addiction, they estimate.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness in which people seem to have lost touch with reality. “The intertwining of substance use disorders and mental illness is a major public health problem that requires urgent action and support for people in need,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Prevention for cannabis addiction
“As access to potent cannabis products continues to expand, it is critical that we also expand prevention, screening and treatment for people experiencing mental health conditions related to cannabis use.
“The findings of this study are a step in that direction and may help healthcare providers make decisions for patients. It can also help individuals take steps against excessive cannabis use.”
In 2015, a British study estimated that about one in four new cases of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia could be a direct result of smoking extra-strength cannabis strains.
In recent years, many countries and US states have legalized the drug, leading experts to warn that serious psychotic disorders may also be on the rise. “The increase in legalization of cannabis in recent decades has made it one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances in the world, while also decreasing public perception of its harms,” said Dr Carsten Hjorthøj, who studies the link between schizophrenia and cannabis use at the University of Copenhagen.
“This study adds to our growing understanding that cannabis is not harmless and that risks are not fixed at one point in time.” The authors called for further research to understand why young men seemed more vulnerable to schizophrenia from heavy cannabis use compared to women.
The study was led by scientists from the Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health at Copenhagen University Hospital and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, within the US Department of Health. The new research is published in the journal Psychological Medicine.
Source: telegraph.co.uk (EN)