NORML Responds To Marijuana And Psychosis Claims

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 24, 2015

    NORML Responds To Marijuana And Psychosis ClaimsLast week, in what is becoming a semi-annual mainstream media ritual, news outlets around the globe published sensational headlines alleging that consuming cannabis will drives people crazy.

    On Monday, I published a rebuttal of these claims in a commentary published on the website Alternet.org — an excerpt of which appears below.

    Debunking the Latest Pathetic Fear Smear Campaign Against Marijuana

    [excerpt] [N]umerous (though far less publicized) studies have come to light downplaying the likelihood that cannabis use is a direct cause of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Specifically, a 2009 paper in the journal Schizophrenia Research compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Authors reported that “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during this period, even though pot use among the general population was rising. They concluded: “This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. … This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence.”

    Similarly, a 2010 review paper published by a pair of British scientists in the journal Addiction reported that clinical evidence indicating that use of he herb may be casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological harms is not persuasive. Authors wrote: “We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. … For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. … We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated.”

    More recently, researchers at Harvard University released a study further rebutting this allegation. Writing in 2013 in Schizophrenia Research, investigators compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to assess whether youth cannabis consumption was an independent factor in developing the disorder. Researchers reported that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing the disease, regardless of whether or not subjects consumed weed as adolescents. They concluded: “The results of the current study, both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples and not the cannabis use. While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness.”

    In fact, some researchers speculate that specific cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may even be efficacious in treating symptoms of psychosis. According to a review published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology: “CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.” Specifically, a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing the administration of CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia concluded that two substances provided similar levels of improvement, but that cannabidiol did so with far fewer adverse side effects.

    Case reports in the scientific literature also indicate that some patients turn to cannabis for subjective benefits, though other studies indicate that pot use may exacerbate certain symptoms in patients with psychiatric disorders. Nonetheless, even a recent paper summarizing the “adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use” acknowledges, “It is difficult to decide whether cannabis use has had any effects on psychosis incidence, because even if a relationship were to be causal, cannabis use would produce a very modest increase in incidence.”

    You can read my full commentary here.

    You can also watch my discussion with Thom Hartmann of The Big Picture (air date: February 23) here.

    29 responses to “NORML Responds To Marijuana And Psychosis Claims”

    1. Julian says:

      Go gettm Paul! If this isn’t a desperate last ditch effort by Big Pharma selling psychosis pills, I don’t know what is. It’s fairly common knowledge now that CBD has antipsychotic properties with far fewer side effects.

      We should run a clip of all the big pharmaceutical companies melting and thrashing in a molten pit of their own lies, changing faces of prohibitionists in deep psychosis like the T1000 in Terminator 2 while Arnold smokes a blunt and hands out a cheap one liner. Talk about ancient rhetoric.

    2. ERIC says:

      MARIJUANA PROTECTS THE BRAIN.The U.S. Government, as represented by The Department of Health and Human Services owns the patent on cannabis (Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants):

    3. Mountaineer says:

      Thank you Paul and everyone that has ever been associated with NORML. Without all of you putting in passionate and concrete work the end of prohibition wouldn’t even be on the horizon, it would be way up in the stratosphere or further, far from the hearts and minds of the nation. True revolutionaries, people of character, people of dedication, I tip my hat to all of you.

    4. Dave Evans says:

      Hello Norml,

      Okay, I just heard something that I just can’t believe. The prosecutors mentions that Eddie Ray Routh couldn’t have been insane because we know he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana earlier in the day before murdering two people by shooting them in the back. They also established he had a long and on going problem with drugs. Can someone please explain how they can use his drug use to prove he wasn’t crazy when they say the reason marijuana is illegal is because it makes you crazy…??????????????????? Did someone piss in my ear today???

    5. Dave Evans says:

      Seriously, how can the same guy that puts you away for selling loco weed claim that someone using said loco weed shouldn’t be considering loco is well, that having used marijuana and a long history thereof is evidence of not being crazy is just not adding up to say the least.

      In their next case, they will be making the opposite argument about how dangerous marijuana is, that we know it contributes to mental illnesses.

    6. gene says:

      I Heard on the news yesterday that marijuana is 100 times safer then alcohol is this true?

      [Paul Armentano responds: These media reports are based on a recent study NORML previously summarized here: http://norml.org/news/2015/02/19/risk-assessment-study-cannabis-purported-dangers-have-been-overestimated%5D

    7. phrtao says:

      Alcohol does also cause schizophrenia and other mental health problems. Much worse it does NOT mix well with anti-psychosis medication (usually causing catastrophic relapses – even in small amounts).
      The crux of this argument is that there should be a link between use of high strength (“skunk” as it is called in the UK) cannabis and the rates of young people developing schizophrenia – but no such link exists.
      There is another theory that is not causal. Cannabis is more available these days and many young people try it – those with a potential for mental health problems find some relief when using it so become regular users. The problem is that it is illegal, unregulated and without medical supervision so it actually prolongs the condition and clouds the diagnosis and treatment process.
      Still all that said any kind of drug is not suitable for minors with developing brains and personalities. 21 and over is best !!

    8. Julian says:

      Depending on one’s physiology and the circumstances, there are plenty of examples that marijuana is 100 times safer than alcohol, none the least of which are the latest figures by the CDC for alcohol related death in the U .S. which is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands… While marijuana has killed no one at all.
      What Paul is doing to his great credit is catching propaganda and false studies in their tracks when prohibitionists mix up an alcohol/marijuana cocktail and call it “controlled scientific evidence of marijuana’s inefficacy.” Take any marijuana study and take away the alcohol, pills and other intoxicants and we might just put the science back into scientic studies.

    9. Galileo Galilei says:

      It seems no one believes this kind of alarmist propaganda anymore. Prohibitionists have repeatedly taught us all to believe NOTHING they say.

      The only ones who still believe are the prohibitionists themselves.

      “Somewhat surprisingly, it was Fox News that took the most reserved approach, announcing ‘Smoking high-potency marijuana may cause psychiatric disorders.’”

      Supposedly there’s a struggle for control of the GOP between the libertarian and conservative wings of the party. I wonder if FOX News’ uncharacteristic restraint reflects that division. If you vote Republican, be sure and take reform into consideration when you vote in the primary.

    10. Todd says:

      I think it should be taught that hallucinations are real, since your mind could not fit inside a small mechanical box and therefore must extend into ones surroundings. Environmental noises forming into phonics, words, and mental conversation happen anyone in a meditative state normally, and does not indicate schizophrenia.