MAY 16, 2024 4:45 PM PDT

High-potency cannabis use is associated with an increased likelihood of psychotic experiences

Can the potency of cannabis influence psychotic episodes? This is what a recent study published in Addiction hopes to address as a team of researchers from the university of Bristol in the United Kingdom (UK) investigated how higher-potency cannabis known as skunk can cause psychotic episodes in adults aged 19 to 24 when they begin using high-potency cannabis between the ages of 16 and 18. This study holds the potential to help researchers, legislators, medical professionals, and the public better understand the long-term impacts regarding the potency of cannabis, especially since the recreational cannabis remains illegal throughout the UK.

For the study, the researchers enlisted just under 14,000 participants who were examined from birth and interviewed between ages 16 to 18 about their cannabis use. This was followed by interviews conducted when the participants were 24 to ascertain their cannabis of choice and whether they experienced psychotic episodes resulting from the cannabis use, with psychotic episodes being classified as delusions or hallucinations.

In the end, the researchers found that 6.4 percent of the participants who used cannabis noted psychotic episodes compared to 3.8 percent of non-cannabis-users, along with noting greater risks of psychotic episodes based on the potency of the cannabis.

“Young people using higher-potency forms of cannabis are twice as likely to have experiences associated with psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions,” said Dr. Lindsey Hines, who is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath and lead author of the study. “Importantly, the young people we asked had not previously reported these experiences before starting their cannabis use. This adds to the evidence that use of higher-potency cannabis may negatively impact mental health.”

Going forward, the team aspires to raise awareness about the impacts of high-potency cannabis and taking steps to mitigate access of high-potency cannabis to youth.

What new connections will researchers make between cannabis potency and psychosis in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Addiction, The Guardian, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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