New research shows link between cannabis and psychosis

(NewsNation) —As the legalization of recreational marijuana spreads, a growing body of research suggests a potential risk between the drug and serious mental health problems.

There are concerns about a possible link between cannabis, psychosis and schizophrenia, and the study shows that young men are most at risk.

Laura and John Stack are still coping with their son’s suicide in 2019. The Stacks live in Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana in 2012. They say their son, Johnny, became a regular user in his teens.

“He would say, ‘What do you want mom and dad, I have a 4.0.’ And it was kind of hard to argue about that, and he didn’t seem to have any problems until he did,” Laura said.

To compound his problems, Johnny also used pot products made with extracts that don’t produce a telltale odor.

“He had started vaping. And it was completely odorless. And from about age 14 to 1, we had no idea at all,” said John.

At the age of 18, Johnny was a heavy user and showed symptoms of psychosis.

“He started thinking people were listening to him through his iPhone, he’d buy burner phones and put sticky notes over the webcam,” Laura said. “He said people were watching him. He started to think the mob was after him.”

The Stacks are now left to cherish photos and videos, including one of Johnny reciting a poem three days before he killed himself.

Since the proliferation of legalization over the past decade, a number of studies have looked at the health effects of marijuana.

The latest is a Danish study co-authored by a director of the National Institute of Health.

“If it causes psychosis and acute psychotic episodes, that can lead (to symptoms) that can be very, very frightening. Someone could actually commit suicide by a very impulsive act,” Dr. Nora Volkow said.

In the study, published this month in “Psychological Medicine,” researchers said there is enough data to confirm that “the link between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia is stronger in young men than in women.

“That transition period between the pre-teens and the ’20s is exactly when you start to see the emergence of schizophrenia, but the risks are significantly higher for men than for women,” Volkow said.

The legalization of marijuana has led to a new generation of potent weed, containing much more THC, the part of the plant that induces a high.

In the 1970s, the average plant had a THC content of less than 3%. Genetic manipulation has pushed that average up to almost 25% in recent decades.

Dr. Christine Miller is a neurobiologist and psychosis expert.

“They’ve done studies in Europe where they administered purified THC to subjects in a clinical trial and they found that 40% of those with no family history of psychosis developed psychotic symptoms,” she said.

Recreational sales are now legal in 22 states, along with Washington, D.C. Only Vermont and Connecticut have potency limits.

Three days before Johnny died, the Stacks said he told them he was sorry and that he loved them, but marijuana was destroying his mind and his life.

The Stacks are now traveling across the country to warn others of the dangers of potent weed. Earlier this month, Oklahoma joined several other states in rejecting legalization for recreational use.

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