Researchers trying to understand what triggers psychotic episodes in some users say it’s a myth marijuana is risk-free.
Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a psychiatrist and director of the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention Clinic, says young people who use marijuana before the age of 16 have a higher risk of having a psychotic experience. (KEITH BEATY / TORONTO STAR)
By MARINA JIMENEZ Foreign Affairs Writer - Mon., June 6, 2016
At first, the voices he heard in his head were pleasant. But then, they turned malevolent. Jean Thibodeau, a 19-year-old University of Toronto student and avid pot smoker, became convinced he was possessed by the devil. He could see blood gushing down his chest and feel a deep gash in his neck. “I remember thinking, I’m going to die,” said Thibodeau in an interview.
His roommate became so concerned he took him to the emergency department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
“They told me I was having a psychotic episode brought on by cannabis,” said Thibodeau, who requested that the Star use his grandmother’s surname as he is still recovering from the breakdown.
“I was shocked. We live in a society where there is such a culture around smoking dope that people think it is cool to be a stoner. Nobody ever talks about the pitfalls.”
Researchers have established a link between cannabis and psychosis among young people, although they cannot predict who will be triggered, or why.
Youths who are especially at risk are those with a family history of mental illness, or who have suffered sexual or physical abuse. Thibodeau, who went to private school and has a supportive, intact family, doesn’t fit any of these categories.
“When people start smoking before the age of 16, there is a higher risk of having a psychotic experience. We know that early use is dangerous,” said Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a psychiatrist and director of the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention Clinic at CAMH. “The brain continues to develop until the age of 25.”
Published: Thursday 23 June 2016
Almost 10 million U.S. adults report misusing prescription opioids in 2012-2013.
Nonmedical use of prescription opioids more than doubled among adults in the United States from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013, based on a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health. Nearly 10 million Americans, or 4.1 percent of the adult population, used opioid medications in 2012-2013 a class of drugs that includes OxyContin and Vicodin, without a prescription or not as prescribed (in greater amounts, more often, or longer than prescribed) in the past year. This is up from 1.8 percent of the adult population in 2001-2002.
More than 11 percent of Americans report nonmedical use of prescription opioids at some point in their lives, a considerable increase from 4.7 percent ten years prior.
The number of people who meet the criteria for prescription opioid addiction has substantially increased during this timeframe as well, with 2.1 million adults (0.9 percent of the U.S. adult population) reporting symptoms of "nonmedical prescription opioid use disorder (NMPOUD)," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
"The increasing misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers poses a myriad of serious public health consequences," said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which contributed funding for the study. "These include increases in opioid use disorders and related fatalities from overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of newborns who experience neonatal abstinence syndrome. In some instances, prescription opioid misuse can progress to intravenous heroin use with consequent increases in risk for HIV, hepatitis C and other infections among individuals sharing needles."
The likelihood adolescents will try marijuana rises steadily from age 11 to age 16, then decreases before hitting another peak at age 18, according to a new University of Florida study.
The study findings, which appear in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, may help experts develop new marijuana prevention strategies, says lead author Xinguang (Jim) Chen, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine, which are both part of UF Health.
“Many existing marijuana intervention programs target students age 15 and older,” Chen said. “Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade. This gives us an opportunity to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”
As medical marijuana laws are passed in more states, there is concern among some experts that adolescents may view marijuana as a substance that can be used safely by anyone, regardless of whether it is part of a treatment plan under a physician’s supervision. Using marijuana at a young age could put adolescents at risk for cognitive problems, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Teens who use marijuana may have impaired brain development and lower IQ. They may receive lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school.
(putting new spin on the term ‘THICK as a BRICK’!)
“Compared with unexposed children, those who were prenatally exposed to cannabis had a thicker prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain involved in complex cognition, decision-making, and working memory.
Author of the study Dr. Hanan El Marroun, of Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands, said: "this study is important because cannabis use during pregnancy is relatively common and we know very little about the potential consequences of cannabis exposure during pregnancy and brain development later in life."
Written by Marie EllisPublished: Friday 15 April 2016
“Results showed that, compared with the control group, the marijuana users' striatum had lower dopamine release. There was also lower release in subregions that play a role in associative and sensorimotor learning, as well as in the globus pallidus.”