Regular Marijuana Use and Psychotic Symptoms in Adolescent Boys

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A new study indicates that adolescent boys who use marijuana on a weekly basis may be at heightened risk for   subclinical  symptoms of psychosis. (The term subclinical typically refers to the early stages or mild form  of an illness.)  Alarmingly, these symptoms appear to persist, even after a year of abstinence from the drug.

Previous research  linked regular marijuana use to earlier onset of psychosis, but it’s not clear whether such  use leads to the expression of psychotic symptoms or whether people are more likely to turn to marijuana because it relieves their distressing psychiatric symptoms.  The present study, which was conducted by  Bechtold, et al and published online by The American Journal of Psychiatry in May 2016 sought  to clarify this question.

The researchers found that for each year  that the boys  engaged in regular marijuana use, their expected level of subsequent subclinical psychotic symptoms rose by 21%. The greatest increase was seen in paranoid symptoms,  but there was a substantial rise in hallucinations as well.  These effects persisted even when subjects stopped using marijuana for a year.  Moreover,  the idea that marijuana was being used to ameliorate psychiatric symptoms was not supported by the temporal relationships seen in the data. That is, the boys  were not more likely to engage in regular use after an increase in their psychotic symptoms.

 

The authors concluded that:

“…regular marijuana use may significantly increase the risk that an adolescent will experience persistent subclinical psychotic symptoms.”

 

 

 

 

 

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