Marijuana Induced Psychosis and Teens: The Latest on This Disorder and Where to Find Help

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As more states move to legalize marijuana, the use of the drug is skyrocketing, especially among teens. Health benefits have been associated with the drug, with evidence that it can help with serious medical issues ranging from cancer to epilepsy. However, many questions remain about the drug and it’s safety as there are some serious health risks associated with frequent use – including a psychotic episode or cannabis-induced psychosis. Below we discuss the research behind and symptoms of marijuana-induced psychosis, why treatment for this health issue is scarce, who is being affected, and where you can find help.

Marijuana Induced Psychosis – What the Research Shows

According to a National Public Radio article, “a study in The Lancet Psychiatry shows that consuming pot on a daily basis and especially using high-potency cannabis increases the odds of having a psychotic episode later. The authors of the study consider high-potency marijuana to be products with more than 10 percent tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the compound responsible for the drug’s psychoactive effects.” 

NPR spoke with Krista M. Lisdahl, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin (not involved in the study) about this issue. She reveals, “This [study] is more evidence that the link between cannabis and psychosis matters. The fact that consuming high-THC cannabis products has a greater risk is concerning because these products are more common in the market now.” A study out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found, “high-potency cannabis is increasingly dominating markets. It found that the average potency of weed in Europe and the U.S. in 2017 was 17.1 percent, up from 8.9 percent in 2008.”

Symptoms of Marijuana Induced Psychosis

So what is causing a cannabis-induced psychosis? Other than the levels of THC, researchers are looking into a few factors such as genetics and environmental issues that may play a role in the development of the symptoms. It’s important to note that some teens may be predisposed to developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, and it’s crucial for a clinician to take this factor into consideration when determining the cause of a psychotic break while using marijuana. As of now, most health officials and researchers agree on one thing – using high-potency cannabis comes with a risk. Symptoms of a cannabis-induced psychosis may include:

  • Feelings of grandiosity and invincibility
  • Thoughts and speech become disorganized
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Anxiety, restlessness, agitation, and paranoia
  • Feeling detached from your own mind and body, also known as dissociation

Since cannabis-induced psychosis is often linked to heavy pot use, it’s also important to recognize the symptoms of a marijuana use disorder such as:

  • Extreme drowsiness and sleepiness
  • Euphoria
  • Increased or excessive appetite
  • Bloodshot eyes and dry mouth
  • Slowed reflexes and poor coordination

Teens, Marijuana Induced Psychosis, and the Need for Better Treatment

A recent report from USA Today (2020) found that as marijuana-induced psychosis cases rise, parents are finding it hard to get the proper treatment to address this issue. The article reveals that in an attempt to address the shortage of mental health and addiction treatment for people under age 18 with such co-occurring diagnoses, colleges like Rutgers University have opened an Adolescent Substance Evaluation Service at a local medical center in order to deal with these cases. Wun Jung Kim, a child psychiatrist, and professor at the Rutgers medical school estimates that at least half of young people come into this center because of marijuana-related conditions. He states, “It’s hard to find someone who specializes in child psychiatry as well as addiction, and facilities for those kids are very limited,” he says. “I don’t think society takes use of marijuana seriously in kids.”

The article also highlighted Sharon Burns Southard, a mother who lost the battle of trying to convince her 24-year old son that he had an addiction to marijuana. Her son started having schizophrenic episodes six months before he died by suicide in July 2018, “We had taken him to a clinic for help twice, but he wouldn’t let himself be admitted, and there was nothing we could do. He kept saying he wanted to quit on his own. I think he gave up because he was afraid his addiction was never going to stop, and he was too afraid to go on psych meds (USA Today).” 

Unfortunately, stories like the one from this mother are becoming far too common. The need for better education, medical services, and community resources to deal with cannabis-induced psychosis and marijuana addiction should be a top priority when it comes to teens and their health. If a person you know is experiencing a drug-induced psychotic episode, it can result in a debilitating mental health condition and requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital or emergency room for help. If you or someone you love has a marijuana use disorder, Silver Lining Recovery can help. Our intensive outpatient services, professional counseling services, and post-rehab programs will provide the necessary tools, support, and ongoing treatment to help patients live a healthy life free of addiction. We know this is hard and will be with you every step of the way. Call Silver Lining Recovery today at (866) 448-4563 and start your road to sobriety.