Impact of Cannabis Use on the Development of Psychotic Disorders

Curr Addict Rep. 2014 Jun 1;1(2):115-128. doi: 10.1007/s40429-014-0018-7.


The link between cannabis use and psychosis comprises three distinct relationships: acute psychosis associated with cannabis intoxication, acute psychosis that lasts beyond the period of acute intoxication, and persistent psychosis not time-locked to exposure. Experimental studies reveal that cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and synthetic cannabinoids reliably produce transient positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms in healthy volunteers. Case-studies indicate that cannabinoids can induce acute psychosis which lasts beyond the period of acute intoxication but resolves within a month. Exposure to cannabis in adolescence is associated with a risk for later psychotic disorder in adulthood; this association is consistent, temporally related, shows a dose-response, and is biologically plausible. However, cannabis is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause a persistent psychotic disorder. More likely it is a component cause that interacts with other factors to result in psychosis. The link between cannabis and psychosis is moderated by age at onset of cannabis use, childhood abuse and genetic vulnerability. While more research is needed to better characterize the relationship between cannabinoid use and the onset and persistence of psychosis, clinicians should be mindful of the potential risk of psychosis especially in vulnerable populations, including adolescents and those with a psychosis diathesis.

Keywords: Cannabis; psychosis; psychotic disorders; schizophrenia.