Cannabis and Psychotic Disorders

Well, no one got a psychotic disorder by smoking one joint. Calm down. Here we explore how cannabis affects brain function and if at all it is linked to psychotic disorders. 

Cannabis is a drug that has been used by humankind for centuries. The plant has shown up more than once and prominently so, in historical records of India. Recent research has also shown that cannabis might be the secret to fighting cancer. But, what are the effects of the drug on the brain? 

Well, substantial evidence from animal research and more research on humans shows that consistent use of marijuana can bring about long term or possibly permanent changes in the brain – and these changes are not positive. 

Rats exposed to THC soon after birth or in adolescence show noticeable problems with specific learning and memory related functions in the later stages of their lives. 

But… the effects of Cannabis on a rat’s brain in  no way relate to the human brain… or do they? 

Studies have shown that regular marijuana use causes altered connectivity and significantly reduced usage of specific regions areas of the brain – those that are connected to memory, learning and impulse control. Well, it might be a cure for cancer, but on the other hand, you might have problems learning / remembering stuff and controlling your impulses… are you okay with that? 

How cannabis affects human behavior – 

A lot of people smoke for a lot of different reasons. Some smoke to cope with anxiety, others to release stress, some take help from cannabis to sleep, while a lot of people smoke just because “everyone is smoking and i don’t want to feel left out.”

Well, here is some news for you – Do you feel disconnected from your social group after you smoke? Do you just want to be alone and chill? Well, if so, then get this – Rajiv Radhakrishnan – a prominent doctor, explains that these might be symptoms of “amotivational syndrome.” He further states that, this syndrome introduces other characteristics in a human (could be viewed as positive or negative) such as – 

  • Social withdrawal
  • Impaired Decision  making and judgement
  • Lack of Interest in hobbies and activities
  • Poor socio-occupational functioning

The above mentioned symptoms can be classified as the short term effects of Marijuana. 

While the long term effects of Marijuana can be seen below – 

As stated by Nora D. Volkow – a prominent psychiatrist

  • Altered Brain Development (regular, daily use)
  • Poorer studious outcome. Increased intentions of dropping out of school
  • Cognitive Impairment and reduced IQ – those using regularly in adolescence
  • Chronic bronchitis and other disease related issues
  • Increased risk of psychotic disorders – only those that have a predisposition to such disorders like family history with the disease. 
Family History

Recent studies show that frequent marijuana use is a “component cause of psychosis.” Although, the risk is much higher in those that have familial connections to psychosis. 

The studies show that continuous marijuana use WILL bring forward a diagnosis of psychosis “by an average of 2.7 years.”

Depression and Anxiety

The relationship between cannabis and anxiety is highly complex. While some individuals I know use cannabis for its euphoric soothing effects. These are the people that suffer from  anxiety on a daily basis. 

While some people on the other hand, feel paranoia and anxiety AFTER using marijuana. 

While studies cannot zero in on whether or not depression is CAUSED by the use of cannabis, researchers do claim that cannabis can lead to making depression causing decisions like – dropping out of school, or breaking up a relationship. 

Conclusion

While smoking marijuana might not affect all individuals equally, whether it is a catalyst in triggering psychotic disorders or not in the later stages of life is still up for debate. 

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