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Pot Use Might Speed Onset of Psychosis: Study
Date:2/8/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking marijuana might trigger an earlier onset of psychosis, a new analysis of previously published research suggests.

Among people who developed a psychotic illness, those who had smoked pot developed the illness almost three years earlier than those who hadn't, the Australian researchers said, and they speculated that marijuana may actually cause psychosis in some patients. Their report was published online Feb. 7 and will appear in the June print issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

But Michael Rice, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, isn't convinced that smoking pot causes psychosis and said there are still several other theories that could explain the relationship.

One hypothesis is that schizophrenia may be due to an inflammation in the brain, perhaps due to a virus, and that people with pre-symptomatic schizophrenia gravitate towards pot because it has an anti-inflammatory effect, said Rice, who is also associate director of Nebraska's Behavioral Health Education Center.

"People may be naturally seeking out some substance that tries to reduce the inflammation and the inflammation itself may be related to the psychosis," he explained.

And some neurological and cognitive changes that can predict the onset of schizophrenia later can be detected as early as 6 or 7 years of age, he added.

Some 16 million people in the United States alone use marijuana regularly, and most started smoking in their teens. It is the third most widely used addictive substance after tobacco and alcohol, the study authors noted.

Earlier studies had found a link between psychosis and marijuana use, but there's been some controversy over whether the drug actually causes psychosis. Earlier studies didn't necessarily look at the timing of onset of psychosis in relation to
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