The most effective treatment option for Cannabis-Induced Psychosis (CIP) is to stop using the drug.
Can Marijuana Cause Psychosis?
Psychosis is a symptom that involves a disconnection from reality. When people experience psychosis, they may have symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking. It is a symptom of a number of mental health conditions and may have a variety of causes, including marijuana use.
A variety of substances and medications can cause a condition known as substance/medication-induced psychotic disorder. After taking a drug or medicine, some people may experience psychosis within a month of using the substance or when they are withdrawing from the drug.
Other substances and medications that can trigger psychosis include alcohol, hallucinogens, sedatives, stimulants, amphetamines, antidepressants, and steroids.
Research suggests that people who have a co-occurring mental health disorder along with a substance use disorder are at a higher risk of developing psychosis associated with the substance or medication use.1This may suggest that substances such as marijuana may trigger the onset of a psychotic episode in people who have a predisposed risk for psychosis.
Marijuana and Psychiatric Disorders
However, researchers are still not sure if marijuana can cause psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in healthy individuals. Instead, marijuana use may trigger the onset of certain psychiatric conditions in people with a predisposition for those disorders.
While the underlying mechanisms are not well understood, cannabis is a known risk factor for the onset of schizophrenia. Studies have found that cannabis use is involved in 50% of schizophrenia, psychosis, and schizophreniform psychosis cases.3
Symptoms of Psychosis
When people experience psychosis as a result of marijuana use, they may experience a number of different symptoms associated with a break from reality. Symptoms of marijuana-induced psychosis include:
Hallucinations: These are characterized by sensory experiences that are not real including seeing, hearing, or feeling things that don't exist in reality.
Paranoia: This is a type of thinking that causes people to feel suspicious and distrustful of other people.
Feelings of being persecuted: This is an aspect of paranoia in which people believe that other people are trying to harm or sabotage them.
Depersonalization: This happens when a person feels detached from their own thoughts, identity, feelings, emotions, and memories.
Derealization: This symptom is characterized by feeling separated from the environment and the feeling that things are not happening in real-time.
Grandiosity: This involves having an exaggerated sense of power and importance. People experiencing grandiosity may feel that they are superior to others or invulnerable to harm.
People may also experience other symptoms during a psychotic episode including irritability, anxiety, or racing thoughts.
When psychosis is triggered by using a substance such as marijuana, these symptoms are acute rather than persistent. They typically resolve once the substance leaves the body.
There are a number of factors that may make a person more likely to experience psychosis after using marijuana.
Heavy marijuana use
Chronic, long-term use
Existing vulnerability to psychosis
Use During Adolescence
Teens who use marijuana have a higher risk of experiencing psychosis. Some researchers have suggested that this might be due to the emotional challenges that sometimes contribute to marijuana use.
Regular marijuana use by teens can also affect the brain in a variety of ways and may impact cognition, learning, and development.6
Research has found that people who use marijuana and have a certain variation of the AKT1 gene, which is responsible for coding for an enzyme affecting dopamine signaling in a specific region of the brain called the striatum, are at a greater risk for experiencing psychosis.7
Studies have also found another gene variant of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) enzyme can play a role in increasing the risk of developing psychosis in adults who used marijuana as teens. COMT is involved in inactivating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine.8
People who are having an acute psychotic episode may need to be hospitalized until their condition has been stabilized. Treatment for psychosis linked to marijuana use involves antipsychotic medication.9 In some cases, the use of sedative antipsychotics or benzodiazepines may be needed in order to manage some behaviors.
After the immediate symptoms have been addressed, the individual will be further evaluated to determine the cause of the psychosis and to diagnose any other co-occurring conditions that may be contributing to symptoms.
Depending on the cause of the psychosis, a doctor or mental health professional may recommend additional treatments including antipsychotic medications, antidepressants, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications.
As more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, it is important to be aware of the potential adverse consequences of marijuana use, including an increased risk for psychosis.
Understanding your potential risks—which include how long you’ve used marijuana, how much you use, and whether you are predisposed to experiencing psychosis—can all play a role in determining your individual risk for experiencing this negative side effect.
Practicing harm reduction strategies such as using the drug less frequently and only using lower-potency formulations may help. If you are concerned that you are having a psychotic episode or are concerned about your marijuana use, talk to your doctor for further evaluation and advice about your treatment options.
Can Marijuana Cause Psychosis? Verywellmind
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Shrivastava A, Johnston M, Terpstra K, Bureau Y. Cannabis and psychosis: Neurobiology. Indian J Psychiatry. 2014;56(1):8-16. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.124708
Di Forti M, Quattrone D, Freeman TP, et al. The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study. The Lancet. 2019;6(5);427-436 doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30048-3
Chandra S, Radwan MM, Majumdar CG, Church JC, Freeman TP, ElSohly MA. New trends in cannabis potency in USA and Europe during the last decade (2008-2017). Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2019;269(1):5-15. doi:10.1007/s00406-019-00983-5
Khan MA, Akella S. Cannabis-induced bipolar disorder with psychotic features: a case report. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009;6(12):44-48.
Di Forti M, Iyegbe C, Sallis H, et al. Confirmation that the AKT1 (rs2494732) genotype influences the risk of psychosis in cannabis users. Biol Psychiatry.2012;72(10):811-816. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.06.020
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?
Gorelick DA. Pharmacological treatment of cannabis-related disorders: a narrative review. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(42):6409-6419. doi:10.2174/1381612822666160822150822