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Study links childhood trauma to increased risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms when using cannabis

Dec 15, 2021 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

“Childhood trauma should be addressed early in young people who use cannabis to mitigate the psychosis-associated harms of the drug,” study authors advise.

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Australian researchers are recommending that any history of childhood trauma be addressed when developing treatment services for cannabis use problems and psychotic disorders.


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“Childhood trauma may increase the chance of young people experiencing psychotic symptoms when using cannabis,” explains a statement from the University of Queensland.

“Our research found cannabis use was associated with more psychotic-like experiences, and this association was stronger for people with more experiences of childhood trauma,” says Molly Carlyle, an honourary fellow at the university.

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“Psychotic experiences can include symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, which increase the risk of substance use, depressive or anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders,” according to Leanne Hides, a professor in the university’s School of Psychology.


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With findings published in Schizophrenia Research, investigators considered if psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in young people who use cannabis may be an early indicator of psychosis risk following cannabis use.

Using a new web-based treatment for cannabis use and psychotic experiences in those between the ages of 16 and 25, researchers recruited 2,630 cannabis users across the country. Participants were asked about their use of cannabis and other substances, childhood trauma, PLEs and the subjective effects of cannabis, like euphoria and dysphoria/paranoia.

“A significant interaction indicated that the effect of cannabis on PLE frequency was stronger for individuals with more severe childhood trauma,” study authors write. “Childhood trauma was also associated with greater cannabis use and PLE frequency, both of which were mediated by subjective dysphoria/paranoia when using the drug,” they add.


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Participants with childhood trauma more likely to engage in harmful weed use

Calling childhood trauma “a major factor in cannabis use problems and psychosis in young people,” Carlyle adds that trauma could up future risk. “People who experienced more childhood trauma were more likely to engage in more harmful cannabis use,” she reports.

“Childhood trauma should be addressed early in young people who use cannabis to mitigate the psychosis-associated harms of the drug,” study authors advise.

To that, Hides adds, “access to effective web-based early interventions is increasingly important and could reduce risk in young people.”

A study from 2015 concluded that “adolescent initiation of cannabis use is associated, in a dose-dependent fashion, with emergence and severity of psychotic symptoms and functional impairment such that those who initiate use earlier and use at higher frequencies demonstrate poorer illness and treatment outcomes.”

And in a 2019 study published in The Lancet, authors wrote their review shows “differences in frequency of daily cannabis use and in use of high-potency cannabis contributed to the striking variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder.” In light of the increasing availability of high-potency cannabis, they suggested the situation “has important implications for public health.”


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