British researchers claim to have found a connection between the consumption of marijuana and recurring bouts of psychosis.
The study, which was published this week in the journal JAMA psychiatry, suggests that people who struggle with losing their grip on reality may be more prone to a psychotic relapse after using the herb.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers explored 220 psychosis patients between the ages of 18 and 65 who had been diagnosed with the disorder a minimum of two years prior to the start of the study. What they found was those who reported smoking marijuana following their initial psychotic breakdown were about 13 percent more likely to suffer another episode than their sober counterparts.
"We show that pot use causes an increase in the risk of relapse in psychosis and demonstrate that alternative explanations are unlikely to be true," said the study’s co-author Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya. "It would be appropriate to at least aim for reduction in pot use in patients with psychosis if complete abstinence is not realistic.”
But health experts say there is so much more research needed before studies like this one carry any weight in the medical and psychiatric world.
Dr. Mitch Earleywine, professor of psychology at University at Albany, State University of New York, told Health Day that the latest analysis "suffers from most of the problems that plague a lot of the human research on cannabis and psychosis."
He said in order for the study to have painted a more accurate portrait, researchers would have needed to divide the patients into groups of users and non-users. In going this route, they may have been able to determine whether as craving for pot was indicative to the onset of a psychotic episode.
"In all likelihood, those who notice a need for cannabis earlier might be the same ones who are more likely to have another psychotic break whether they had cannabis or not," he said, adding that the possibility of marijuana increasing the risk for a relapse is “ridiculously small.”
However, Dr. Earleywine said he would advise anyone who has been diagnosed with psychosis to steer clear of pot.
"It's fair to say that anyone who has ever had a psychotic break or has a schizophrenic relative should stay away from the plant," he said.
Some previous research has alluded that cananbis itself can actually cause people to become full blown psychotics, but researchers have since discovered that the herb may be beneficial in treating schizophrenia and other psychotic conditions.