When the conversation turns to weed, there are many schools of thought. Opinions differ around concepts of right and wrong, legal or illegal, harmful or not, and many other either/or questions. Those who support marijuana use and legalization (as an alternative to other drugs) will often point to the collection of arguments that “show” it to be safe or at least less harmful than other street drugs.
Many of the arguments in defense of marijuana use and legalization will point out that weed is a naturally occurring substance found in nature instead of some of the chemically created substances people use instead. While marijuana or weed may be a naturally occurring plant, that doesn’t guarantee that it is “safe.” The truth is, there are many naturally occurring toxic and sometimes fatal plants out there that are by no means safe just because they are natural. Some plants and fungi have paralyzing or even deadly effects.
People can consume marijuana in many ways. It can be smoked, vaped, eaten, and blended into liquid beverages. While most marijuana consumption is for pleasure or recreation, a growing number of medical professionals are prescribing medical marijuana for specific conditions and symptom mitigation related to chronic diseases. Marijuana continues to have a reputation as a relatively harmless drug. Therefore, there has been a significant push to legalize its use throughout the United States in recent years. As the push to legalize marijuana continues, researchers are beginning to learn more about the effects that marijuana has on the brain and body.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana comes from the leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. There are more than 500 known chemicals in marijuana; however, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical responsible for many of the mind-altering effects people experience when they use marijuana. THC is what “gets you high.” However, the amount of THC in marijuana has changed. A couple of decades ago, the average amount of THC in marijuana was less than four percent. Today, that number has grown to an excess of 15% (or more for certain products such as oils and extracts.)
Marijuana and Your Mental Health
Not all experiences with marijuana result in happiness or pleasure. For some, chronic marijuana use increases their chances of developing anxiety or depression. Someone who struggles with diagnosed schizophrenia may experience significantly worsening symptoms. Also, marijuana can leave people feeling anxious, panicked, and fearful. To date, researchers do not understand why marijuana use results in paranoia and terror for some and happiness for others. Multiple studies have linked chronic marijuana use to a higher risk of psychosis. These same studies showed that people who smoked or ingested marijuana frequently are more likely to be diagnosed with a psychotic mental health condition such as schizophrenia than those who have never used marijuana before.
In addition to exacerbated mental health conditions, marijuana use can lead to other struggles, including reduced self-esteem, relationship problems, and self-imposed isolation. It is not uncommon for regular marijuana users to realize that they have failed to reach the goals they once set for themselves. This realization often leads to feelings of inadequacy or failure. This often leads to self-esteem struggles and new or worsening depression and anxiety. Also, because marijuana remains illegal in many states, those who regularly use it often do so in the privacy of their own home. When someone uses with frequency, they usually begin to spend a lot more time alone where they feel safe using instead of spending time with friends and family who do not use. Also, they may begin to pick and choose their friends based on who does and who does not share the desire to get high.
More about Marijuana Psychosis Symptoms
Studies suggest those with a dual diagnosis (co-occurring mental health condition and substance use disorder) are at a greater risk for marijuana psychosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) indicates that substance-induced psychotic disorders account for between 7 and 25% of all first-time psychotic disturbances. Studies show that marijuana use is connected to as many as 50% of psychosis, schizophrenia, and schizophreniform cases.
Marijuana psychosis is an altered state of mind marijuana use may cause in some people. Not all marijuana users experience psychosis; however, symptoms can be scary and unpleasant for those who do. When someone is experiencing psychosis, they are often said to be “detached from reality.” When this occurs, it often triggers one or more of the following symptoms.
A hallucination is a sound, taste, smell, sensation, or visual image of something that isn’t really there. Someone who is hallucinating will taste flavors, smell odors, or see people or things that are not physically present at the time. Hallucinations feel very real to the person experiencing them. Unfortunately, there is a high probability that they may not understand what they are experiencing is not real. This can lead to overwhelming fear and anxiety.
Delusions are defined as persistent false beliefs. When someone is delusional or experiencing delusions, they will stand by or fight for the legitimacy of their view regardless of being presented with evidence to the contrary. Delusions are often paranoid or rooted in fear. For example, someone experiencing psychosis may believe certain people are out to get them or cause them harm despite being presented with facts that show their belief is untrue.
Disturbed Thoughts and Speech
Someone experiencing psychosis may speak or communicate in an unusual way. For someone on the outside looking in, this is indicative that their thoughts are confused and chaotic, and they can’t make sense of what they are thinking or saying. Also, they may quickly lose track of their thoughts, speak too fast, stop talking suddenly, or switch topics rapidly as they struggle to communicate.
Incidences of drug-induced psychosis have been reported with the use of a variety of substances, including marijuana, alcohol, stimulants, sedatives, inhalants, and hallucinogens. In general, symptoms of marijuana induced psychosis are often short-lived; however, in the moment, it can be quite terrifying. Psychosis is a severe mental health issue and, in some cases, even a medical and mental health crisis that requires immediate medical and mental health intervention at a treatment facility The Los Angeles Outpatient Center.
Can Treatment Help Marijuana Psychosis?
Drug-induced psychosis results from using drugs, including marijuana use. Typically, once the drug is out of the body and withdrawal is complete, the symptoms of psychosis resolve independently. However, in some cases, they may persist for more extended periods depending on the severity, frequency, and amount of substance used. Because psychosis can sometimes disappear as quickly as it comes on, it can be easy to ignore the symptoms of an episode once it has resolved. It is imperative that you do not do this or allow a friend or loved one experiencing psychotic symptoms to do so. Without prompt and comprehensive treatment, starting as soon as you recognize psychosis, episodes of psychosis can recur.
If you know your or a loved one’s psychosis is substance-induced, treatment focused on substance use disorders and recovery is essential. Also, your treatment program should focus on any underlying mental health conditions that could further worsen their substance use or frequency of psychotic episodes. A significant percentage of individuals who struggle with substance use disorders also struggle with one or more co-occurring mental health conditions.
This is called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder, and it affects between 50 and 60% of those who seek help at a treatment center like The Los Angeles Outpatient Center. Although depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders are the most common, other diagnoses such as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder are found to correlate strongly with addiction. When treated together in a program that addresses dual diagnosis, it helps to reduce to risk of ongoing or relapsing substance abuse and recurring psychosis.
Hospitalization and Ongoing Treatment
Depending on the severity of one’s psychosis episode, immediate hospitalization for medical treatment and stabilization might be necessary before detox and addiction therapy are possible. After your health is stable and your current psychotic episode is safely managed, it is crucial to seek ongoing treatment and therapy to learn safer, more effective ways to manage substance use, underlying mental health symptoms, and the psychotic symptoms that may arise from either diagnosis.
Risk of Recurrence
Because the symptoms of psychosis typically resolve after a short time, it can be easy to overlook or try to “forget about” the episode. It is crucial to take any episode of psychosis seriously as they can return and even worsen with each episode. Studies have shown that ongoing substance use increases the risk of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and similar disorders. According to some studies, alcohol and marijuana are significantly connected to this increased risk. Once you have experienced a psychotic episode related to marijuana use, it is likely to recur. The risk of recurrence is even higher for anyone with an increased risk or history of certain mental health conditions with psychotic symptoms.
Because drug-induced psychosis only typically lasts as long as the substance is in the body, it is possible to recover quickly from one episode. However, without adequate care and treatment, a singular episode of marijuana-induced psychosis can lead to a chronic psychotic condition with regular bouts of psychosis. It is possible to limit the possibility of substance use or mental health relapse by reaching out for help and addiction treatment therapy. It is crucial to choose a comprehensive dual diagnosis program where therapy addresses both your mental health and substance abuse treatment needs.
A proper treatment plan makes recovery from substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses that lead to psychosis possible. To learn more about how treatment for marijuana-induced psychosis can help, contact our Los Angeles area treatment center today.