Public Health and Safety

Early age of initiation: Greater risks of adverse mental outcomes

Of those who use marijuana, only a small population will develop adverse mental health outcomes such as psychotic experiences (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, etc.). The age of first use has been associated to increased risks of these experiences. 

This study published in Scientific Reports (May 2022) applies a network approach to data collected in the National Comorbidity Survey, a national mental health survey. Here authors, (Betz, use data collected from over 2,500 individuals who have used marijuana and experienced some type of mental health or psychotic episode. 

The average age of first use of marijuana was 16.7 years.  Some of the more common moods cited by participants were feeling anxious, sadness, a general loss of intertest and panic. 

Of those that experienced a psychotic experience those were described as paranoia (being followed / watched), others reading their mind, having visions and hearing voices were cited.

The authors note that, “Importantly, our results suggest that early and frequent cannabis use may have different relationships with different types of psychotic experiences.”

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