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Effects of Marijuana: Can Weed Cause Psychosis?

Effects of Marijuana: Can Weed Cause Psychosis?

Weed has a reputation for being relatively harmless, but in reality, the effects of marijuana are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Despite the occasional controversy, many people view this drug as nothing more than a quick and convenient means to relax or relieve stress. However, marijuana, like most other substances, is not as harmless as it sounds.

One of the lesser-known effects of marijuana is that it can cause or worsen psychosis and other psychiatric symptoms in people who use it regularly. If you have struggled with mental illness before or believe you have a predisposition for it, it would be beneficial to steer clear of mind-altering substances as much as possible, even if it’s “only” weed.

Link Between Marijuana and Immediate, Acute Psychosis

Smoking or ingesting marijuana leads to immediate symptoms that persist for a few minutes or hours at a time. Most commonly, people experience a sense of relaxation accompanied by slowed reflexes, impaired judgment, poor short-term memory formation, and a reduced capacity for critical thinking and making decisions. One-time use of marijuana rarely causes acute psychosis, but it can and does happen occasionally.

High doses are most likely to lead to acute psychotic episodes. Though these episodes of psychosis are often temporary, in certain cases they do stick around for a while. The DSM-5 outlines the onset of cannabis-induced psychosis (CIP) within 24 hours to a week after marijuana use, meaning that people experiencing a psychotic episode may have effects that linger far beyond the usual short-term presentation of symptoms.1

CIP often affects young users in particular. People experiencing CIP may have paranoia, agitation, strange beliefs, and bizarre behavior. As dictated by the definition of psychosis, these patients will appear detached from reality, which is often very concerning for friends and loved ones to see.1 If you witness someone acting bizarrely or seeming dissociated from reality after using marijuana within the past week, seek medical help and alert them to the possibility of CIP.

Importantly, anyone who has developed psychosis as an effect of marijuana, even if it was short-lived, should abstain from future substance use to avoid triggering a more permanent problem.

Long-Term Psychiatric Effects of Marijuana Use

Daily users of marijuana have around five times the risk of experiencing psychosis compared to non-users. In fact, researchers have found an association between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia, among other psychiatric conditions.2

This is most likely to happen to people with a genetic predisposition to psychosis. Still, other factors, such as the age when they first began using marijuana and the amount of marijuana they have used, also affect outcomes. Specifically, people who have a variant of the AKT1 gene may have a higher risk of developing psychosis with marijuana use.2

This may happen because the AKT1 gene influences dopamine activation in the brain. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmitters that can cause cognitive and psychiatric issues, including schizophrenia.3 However, cannabis-induced psychosis appears to affect dopamine metabolites differently from traditional schizophrenia, leading researchers to believe that CIP has a different development mechanism than non-cannabis-related schizophrenia.1

This genetic variation can leave marijuana users with seven times the risk of psychosis compared to those without the gene variant. Another gene, COMT, may increase the risk of adult-onset psychosis in people who used marijuana in adolescence.2

Most people will never know if they carry these genetic variations.

Therefore, it’s difficult to predict your risk for developing psychosis with long-term marijuana use. What is clear is that people who already have psychotic episodes, including people with diagnosed schizophrenia or a family history of psychotic conditions, have a much higher risk than people who do not. However, marijuana-related psychosis can be induced even in people without apparent predisposition, especially at high or frequent doses.

Contact Spring Gardens Recovery to Avoid Unwanted Effects of Marijuana

Whether you began using marijuana recreationally or as a treatment for another condition, perhaps you’re starting to feel like things are getting out of hand. Thankfully, support and treatment are just a phone call away. Spring Gardens Recovery focuses on holistic, healthful ways of detaching yourself from reliance on substances. We’re here to help with any substance use issues, including marijuana. Please reach out to our team of caring professionals to learn more about our treatment center.


[1] https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/cannabis-induced-psychosis-review

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders

[3] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dopamine-and-schizophrenia#the-link


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