Since medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, many people living here believe it is a safe and even beneficial substance. However, any mind-altering drug can have adverse effects, especially if you start relying on cannabis to escape unwanted emotions. The higher-potency strains sold in dispensaries can be especially dangerous for frequent marijuana users. Here’s why.
Weed Psychosis – What You Need to Know
A growing body of medical research has linked marijuana use to an increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Specifically, studies suggest that smoking high-THC cannabis daily could increase the chances of developing psychosis nearly fivefold compared to people who have never used cannabis.
The strongest evidence to date connects cannabis use to psychiatric disorders in people with a specific genetic vulnerability. This gene variant codes for an enzyme that affects dopamine signaling in the presence of stimuli like drug use. Researchers discovered that the risk of psychosis among those with this variant was seven times higher among daily marijuana users than people who rarely or never use cannabis.
What Is Psychosis?
People with cannabis-induced psychosis may experience confusing, disorienting thoughts or feelings that are disconnected from reality. Its hallmark symptoms include hallucinations and delusions.
- Hallucinations can be visual, auditory or sensory. For instance, someone in the midst of a psychotic episode may see people who aren’t there, hear voices or feel unusual sensations.
- Delusions are irrational, inconsistent beliefs that are unlikely to be true. Often, delusional people become extremely paranoid and believe people are out to get them. Or, they might become convinced they are on a God-given mission or have divine powers.
How Cannabis Affects the Brain
Cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system, changing users’ mood and motivation. Frequent use can also lead to sleep disruptions and impaired learning and coordination. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, vaping or eating weed-infused products, the more susceptible they will become to issues like these:
- Addiction to marijuana and other substances, like alcohol and illicit drugs
- Reduced volume of specific brain regions that govern memory and impulse control
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using, including irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings and restlessness
Researchers do not yet know the full extent of the consequences of exposing a human brain to high concentrations of THC over time. However, studies of lab rats suggest that marijuana can cause long-term or even permanent impairment, even in people who do not experience psychotic symptoms.
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