Is There a Dose-Response Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Violence? A Longitudinal Study in Individuals with Severe Mental Disorders

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2023 Feb 14. doi: 10.1089/can.2022.0038. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Recent longitudinal studies point toward the existence of a positive relationship between cannabis use and violence in people with severe mental disorders (SMD). However, the existence of a dose-response relationship between the frequency/severity of cannabis use and violence has seldom been investigated. Therefore, this study aims to determine if such a relationship exists in a psychiatric population. Methods: To do so, a total of 98 outpatients (81 males and 17 females, all over 18 years of age) with SMD were recruited at the Institut universitaire de santé mentale de Montréal (Montréal, Canada) and included in the analyses. Clinical evaluations were conducted every 3 months for a year. Substance use, violent behaviors, and potential covariables were assessed through self-reported assessments, urinary testing, as well as clinical, criminal, and police records. Using generalized estimating equations, the association between cannabis use frequency (nonusers, occasional, regular, and frequent users) and violence was investigated, as well as the association between the severity of cannabis use and violent behaviors. Results: It was found that cannabis use frequency and severity were significant predictors of violent behaviors. After adjustment for time, age, sex, ethnicity, diagnoses, impulsivity, and use of alcohol and stimulants, odds ratios were of 1.91 (p<0.001) between each frequency profile and 1.040 (p<0.001) for each increase of one point of the severity of cannabis use score (ranging from 0 to 79). Conclusions: Despite the high attrition rate, these findings may have important implications for clinicians as cannabis use may have serious consequences in psychiatric populations. Nevertheless, the mechanisms underlying this association remain unclear.

Keywords: cannabis; longitudinal; severe mental disorders; violence.