Psychosis and cannabis

One of the questions I am always asked is
about cannabis. People say cannabis is harmless, and they
are right, to most people, cannabis is harmless. But if you happen to be one of those people
with a family history of psychosis cannabis is not harmless at all. It hugely increases your chance of developing
Schizophrenia. People have been worried about cannabis for
centuries. In fact, one of the oldest studies was called
the Indian Hemp Corp, by the Indian Hemp corporation
in the 1800’s. They were interested in cannabis and psychosis. But the big studies came out about 20 years
ago, and they were from Sweden. People at 18 in Sweden, they go for national
service and they have quite a thorough Medical exam and questionnaire. And they ask people things like how many drugs
have you taken by the age of 18 and the most interesting thing for me is that
people actually answer them, and answer them truthfully which would not
necessarily happen in many other countries. Because what they did in this study is having
done that they then took the results of that medical
exam and they linked it to people’s health service
use over the rest of their life. And they found that the amount of cannabis
that you have taken before the age of 18 was directly linked to your risk of developing
Schizophrenia. If you take cannabis one or two times it did not seem to make too much difference but after that, the more cannabis you took the more your risk of developing a psychosis. So following that bit, there has been quite
a lot of research trying to work out what this means and what people have found is that cannabis
seems to be toxic to the brain. It not only increases your chance of developing
psychotic symtoms but it also has direct effects on the structure
of the brain. If you are a person with a family history,
taking cannabis increases your chance of developing psychotic symptoms, but it also directly damages your brain, it
shrinks your brain. So cannabis, is actually very important and
very linked to the development of psychosis. What a lot of people then say is well that’s fine because there is no family
history of psychosis in my family I will just take the cannabis and there will
not be a problem. What they forget is the level of stigma
that there has been in the past. You may well have a family history of psychosis
and no one will have told you. People used to make sure that this was really
not passed down the generations. That nobody told anybody that aunt Maud or
uncle Harry or something had a psychotic break at some time. So when you take cannabis, it is like playing
Russian Roulette you don’t know whether you are the person
who has a vulnerability and who is going to develop psychosisS

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