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  1. #1

    Mental health warning for cannabis users

    Mental health warning for cannabis users
    December 2, 2004
    By Nic Fleming, The Telegraph

    Young people with a family history of mental illness were warned yesterday that smoking cannabis substantially increases their chances of developing psychiatric problems.

    Those who are genetically vulnerable to psychosis double the risks of hallucinations, paranoia and serious conditions such as schizophrenia by using the drug.

    The study, to be presented at an Institute of Psychiatry conference in London today, confirmed previous findings that for an average person taking cannabis once or twice a week the risk of suffering psychotic symptoms roughly doubles in later life.

    Prof Jim van Os, a psychiatrist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said: "There have been a number of studies that have shown that cannabis use roughly doubles the risk of psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia among young people.

    "There have been suggestions that cannabis can interact with pre-existing, possibly genetic, vulnerability to psychotic symptoms.

    "Our results show that in the group with no pre-existing vulnerability to psychosis, cannabis use increased the chances of the onset of psychosis by a small amount.

    "However for those who had shown evidence of being predisposed, the increased risks of developing problems were four times greater than for those not considered vulnerable."

    The new research, published by, opens the way to the possibility of a genetic test that would tell people if they were at greater risk from cannabis use and of better targeting of public health advice.

    Prof van Os's team interviewed 2,437 Germans aged 14 to 24 to assess their drug use and vulnerability to psychosis by asking questions designed to reveal traits such as paranoia, suspicion and delusions.

    Ten per cent were viewed as potentially vulnerable to psychotic symptoms, ranging from hallucinations and delusions to serious conditions requiring hospital treatment.

    The group was assessed four years later. Of those found not to be predisposed to psychosis, 15 per cent of those who did not use the drug and 21 per cent of those who did experienced some symptoms.

    Among the volunteers identified as genetically vulnerable to psychosis, 51 per cent of cannabis users had symptoms compared with 26 per cent of those who did not use the drug.

    Across the whole group, cannabis use, defined as at least five times, was found to increase the risk of psychosis by two thirds. Using the drug on average between once and twice a week increased the chances of symptoms by 95 per cent.

    Prof van Os said: "The public health message is that if people have a family history of mental instability then they should know there are high risks associated with cannabis use."

    Other researchers said the risks of mental illness were also increased by the trend in recent years of increasing amounts of THC "the active ingredient in cannabis" in the drug, and young people starting to use it earlier.

    A report released last week showed that schoolchildren in England were using more cannabis than in any other country in Europe. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction disclosed that among 15-year-olds, 42 per cent of boys and 38 per cent of girls had tried cannabis, compared with less than 10 per cent in Greece, Malta, Sweden and Norway. More than one in 10 15-year-olds in England reported heavy cannabis use "defined as 40 or more occasions a year" compared with the next biggest groups of seven per cent in Spain and Belgium.

    Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: "The evidence is mounting that cannabis can be the trigger to lifelong mental illness. We need to make these risks known, clamp down on drug dealing in such places as playgrounds and hospital wards, and change perceptions of cannabis from being a recreational relaxant to a dangerous substance for those who are vulnerable."
    Last edited by Cat Dancer; October 22nd, 2008 at 11:19 AM. Reason: fixed odd characters

  2. #2

    Mental health warning for cannabis users

    "However for those who had shown evidence of being predisposed, the increased risks of developing problems were four times greater than for those not considered vulnerable."

    The new research, published by, opens the way to the possibility of a genetic test that would tell people if they were at greater risk from cannabis use and of better targeting of public health advice.
    I had talked quite a bit about the risk of smoking pot with my daughter. Since her dad has bipolar and her brother has schizophrenia I would consider her to be at high risk.

    Thankfully she is a very health conscious person (she is the reason I quit smoking tobacco) but there is always the possibility that she may think that it is *natural* and try it. She is very aware but I will send this article on to her as a reminder.

    Compared to other illicit drugs, cannabis has been studied very little. Although there is risk from using cannabis, especially over the long term, I'm concerned that the other illicit amphetamine, stimulant family of drugs pose a greater risk to those that have a history of mental illness in their family. It could be that the one time use throws the brains chemistry permanently out of the stable range with drugs such as LSD, cocaine (crack) Ecstasy, Meth.....

    Unfortunately many people do not know what psychosis is so the results of this research may go in one ear and out the other of the people who should be most concerned!

    It sure would be nice if research on cannibis resulted in a genetic test for vulnerability!

  3. #3

    Mental health warning for cannabis users

    One of the things I tell my clients is that the reason drugs and alcohol make you feel "high" is that they mess with your brain chemistry -- drugs that don't do that don't give you a high. Therefore, if there is any physiological vulnerability to imbalances in brain chemistry, recreational drugs or alcohol may trigger that vulnerability.

    A second problem is that many street drugs contain an appalling range of additives used by manufacturers, distributors, and dealers to "cut" or enhance the drug -- these can include things like rat poison and household cleansers. How safe would you feel if someone offered to sell you some draino to smoke?

    Finally, when it comes to pot, there are all sorts of health hazards and long-term consequences associated with regular long-term use, including changes in hormone production and pre-cancerous changes in cells in the lungs. Back in the 60s, we could believe pot was "safe" and "natural" but those beliefs were based on ignorance and lack of research. There is no longer any reason for anyone to believe that today -- one might possibly make the argument that it is no more dangerous than alcohol or maybe even nicotine but even if true that doesn't seem to me to be much of an argument in favor of pot smoking -- especially in "vulnerable brains".

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