A new study has provided the first conclusive evidence that cannabis use significantly hastens the onset of psychotic illnesses during the critical years of brain development with possible life-long consequences.
The first ever meta-analysis of more than 20,000 patients shows that smoking cannabis is associated with an earlier onset of psychotic illness by up to 2.7 years.
The analysis, by an international team including Dr Matthew Large, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Psychiatry and Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital, is published today in the prestigious journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
In partnership with St Vincent's Hospital and The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the study set out to establish the extent to which use of cannabis, alcohol and other psychoactive substances affects the age at onset of psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia with 33.5% of the population reporting use at some time, according to the 2007 National Drug Household Survey. Some 18% of all secondary school students aged 12-17 reported using the drug at some time in their life, according to the 2004 Secondary School Survey. (UNSW's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre http://ncpic.org.au/)
Building on several decades of research, the finding is an important breakthrough in the understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis, Dr Large said.
A number of previous studies have found an association between psychosis and the use of cannabis, alcohol and other psychoactive substances. However, the aim of this study was to specifically show the extent to which this is caused by cannabis use alone, he said.
The current findings support the view that cannabis use precipitates schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, pe
|Contact: Steve Offner|
University of New South Wales