NORML Responds To Marijuana And Psychosis Claims

Last week, in what is becoming a semi-annual mainstream media ritual, news outlets around the globe published sensational headlines alleging that consuming cannabis will drives people crazy.

On Monday, I published a rebuttal of these claims in a commentary published on the website — an excerpt of which appears below.

Debunking the Latest Pathetic Fear Smear Campaign Against Marijuana

[excerpt] [N]umerous (though far less publicized) studies have come to light downplaying the likelihood that cannabis use is a direct cause of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. Specifically, a 2009 paper in the journal Schizophrenia Research compared trends in marijuana use and incidences of schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005. Authors reported that “incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” during this period, even though pot use among the general population was rising. They concluded: “This study does not therefore support the specific causal link between cannabis use and incidence of psychotic disorders. … This concurs with other reports indicating that increases in population cannabis use have not been followed by increases in psychotic incidence.”

Similarly, a 2010 review paper published by a pair of British scientists in the journal Addiction reported that clinical evidence indicating that use of he herb may be casually linked to incidences of schizophrenia or other psychological harms is not persuasive. Authors wrote: “We continue to take the view that the evidence that cannabis use causes schizophrenia is neither very new, nor by normal criteria, particularly compelling. … For example, our recent modeling suggests that we would need to prevent between 3000 and 5000 cases of heavy cannabis use among young men and women to prevent one case of schizophrenia, and that four or five times more young people would need to avoid light cannabis use to prevent a single schizophrenia case. … We conclude that the strongest evidence of a possible causal relation between cannabis use and schizophrenia emerged more than 20 years ago and that the strength of more recent evidence may have been overstated.”

More recently, researchers at Harvard University released a study further rebutting this allegation. Writing in 2013 in Schizophrenia Research, investigators compared the family histories of 108 schizophrenia patients and 171 individuals without schizophrenia to assess whether youth cannabis consumption was an independent factor in developing the disorder. Researchers reported that a family history of schizophrenia increased the risk of developing the disease, regardless of whether or not subjects consumed weed as adolescents. They concluded: “The results of the current study, both when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples and not the cannabis use. While cannabis may have an effect on the age of onset of schizophrenia it is unlikely to be the cause of illness.”

In fact, some researchers speculate that specific cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may even be efficacious in treating symptoms of psychosis. According to a review published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology: “CBD has some potential as an antipsychotic treatment. … Given the high tolerability and superior cost-effectiveness, CBD may prove to be an attractive alternative to current antipsychotic treatment.” Specifically, a 2012 double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial assessing the administration of CBD versus the prescription anti-psychotic drug amisulpride in 42 subjects with schizophrenia and acute paranoia concluded that two substances provided similar levels of improvement, but that cannabidiol did so with far fewer adverse side effects.

Case reports in the scientific literature also indicate that some patients turn to cannabis for subjective benefits, though other studies indicate that pot use may exacerbate certain symptoms in patients with psychiatric disorders. Nonetheless, even a recent paper summarizing the “adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use” acknowledges, “It is difficult to decide whether cannabis use has had any effects on psychosis incidence, because even if a relationship were to be causal, cannabis use would produce a very modest increase in incidence.”

You can read my full commentary here.

You can also watch my discussion with Thom Hartmann of The Big Picture (air date: February 23) here.

29 thoughts

  1. Go gettm Paul! If this isn’t a desperate last ditch effort by Big Pharma selling psychosis pills, I don’t know what is. It’s fairly common knowledge now that CBD has antipsychotic properties with far fewer side effects.

    We should run a clip of all the big pharmaceutical companies melting and thrashing in a molten pit of their own lies, changing faces of prohibitionists in deep psychosis like the T1000 in Terminator 2 while Arnold smokes a blunt and hands out a cheap one liner. Talk about ancient rhetoric.

  2. Thank you Paul and everyone that has ever been associated with NORML. Without all of you putting in passionate and concrete work the end of prohibition wouldn’t even be on the horizon, it would be way up in the stratosphere or further, far from the hearts and minds of the nation. True revolutionaries, people of character, people of dedication, I tip my hat to all of you.

  3. Hello Norml,

    Okay, I just heard something that I just can’t believe. The prosecutors mentions that Eddie Ray Routh couldn’t have been insane because we know he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana earlier in the day before murdering two people by shooting them in the back. They also established he had a long and on going problem with drugs. Can someone please explain how they can use his drug use to prove he wasn’t crazy when they say the reason marijuana is illegal is because it makes you crazy…??????????????????? Did someone piss in my ear today???

  4. Seriously, how can the same guy that puts you away for selling loco weed claim that someone using said loco weed shouldn’t be considering loco is well, that having used marijuana and a long history thereof is evidence of not being crazy is just not adding up to say the least.

    In their next case, they will be making the opposite argument about how dangerous marijuana is, that we know it contributes to mental illnesses.

  5. Alcohol does also cause schizophrenia and other mental health problems. Much worse it does NOT mix well with anti-psychosis medication (usually causing catastrophic relapses – even in small amounts).
    The crux of this argument is that there should be a link between use of high strength (“skunk” as it is called in the UK) cannabis and the rates of young people developing schizophrenia – but no such link exists.
    There is another theory that is not causal. Cannabis is more available these days and many young people try it – those with a potential for mental health problems find some relief when using it so become regular users. The problem is that it is illegal, unregulated and without medical supervision so it actually prolongs the condition and clouds the diagnosis and treatment process.
    Still all that said any kind of drug is not suitable for minors with developing brains and personalities. 21 and over is best !!

  6. @Gene,
    Depending on one’s physiology and the circumstances, there are plenty of examples that marijuana is 100 times safer than alcohol, none the least of which are the latest figures by the CDC for alcohol related death in the U .S. which is somewhere in the hundreds of thousands… While marijuana has killed no one at all.
    What Paul is doing to his great credit is catching propaganda and false studies in their tracks when prohibitionists mix up an alcohol/marijuana cocktail and call it “controlled scientific evidence of marijuana’s inefficacy.” Take any marijuana study and take away the alcohol, pills and other intoxicants and we might just put the science back into scientic studies.

  7. It seems no one believes this kind of alarmist propaganda anymore. Prohibitionists have repeatedly taught us all to believe NOTHING they say.

    The only ones who still believe are the prohibitionists themselves.

    “Somewhat surprisingly, it was Fox News that took the most reserved approach, announcing ‘Smoking high-potency marijuana may cause psychiatric disorders.’”

    Supposedly there’s a struggle for control of the GOP between the libertarian and conservative wings of the party. I wonder if FOX News’ uncharacteristic restraint reflects that division. If you vote Republican, be sure and take reform into consideration when you vote in the primary.

  8. I think it should be taught that hallucinations are real, since your mind could not fit inside a small mechanical box and therefore must extend into ones surroundings. Environmental noises forming into phonics, words, and mental conversation happen anyone in a meditative state normally, and does not indicate schizophrenia.

  9. Todd, I get what you mean, I think anyway… I also believe people have a group mind which got nicknamed Peer Pressure. Each of us only experience a tiny portion of what the world has to offer, so sharing experiences and the ever increasing technology like Youtube and Facebook is allowing this group mind to grow and grow.

  10. @Todd has a very good point. Some of these “hallucinations” are audio or visual Freudian puns the meditator has “discovered” and synthesized and may be precursors of an important invention or proposal to benefit humanity and planet. (LEAP = Long-term Episodic Associative Performance memory.)

    @Galileo, it’s tragic that pseudolibertarians and pseudoconservatives are confusing everyone’s terminology. Anyway, a true Conservative would endorse cannabis use because informed users readily discover the H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide Joint is unnecessary, a 25-mg single toke is enough to generate worldchanging innovations safely and nonwastefully– and after marijuana law reform the 700-mg nicotine $igarette format is doomed (guess which industry subsidizes the Republican Party), saving the US economy $289-BIL. a year on “smoking-related illnesses”.

    Thanks to Hartmann for inviting Paul to speak, but no thanks to his editors for shoving in pictures of hot burning
    Joints a la Daily Mail. “To children whose parents followed advice to keep them ignorant about cannabis, every Joint and every picture of a Joint is a $igarette adverti$ement.”

  11. I think it is understandable how some of these Reefer Madness, psychosis mythologies started.Like laughter for example.The person laughing at something mundane or trivial,some abstract joke, or his own internal dialogue,was something you might see in a mental asylum.Now we know how therapeutic laughter is,releasing endorphins in the brain and boosting the immune system.Thinking outside of the box,seeing things from unique or different perspectives than one would have thought of normally, would be considered possession by some.The “weird jazz music’ that was deviating from the conventional diatonic church modes,with the chromatic runs and the dissonance was considered a threat to the “culture’ at the time.

    And now its almost a century down the road,and all of a sudden you have “Skunk” and some people are having anxiety attacks,because they underestimated the potency and also because the THC&CBD ratios are out of alignment.What are you going to do?…Maybe smoke less,until you know how you react? would be the sane thing to do.A normal experienced consumer of alcoholic beverages would not down shots of tequila or whiskey at the same rate as a few coors lights.And we are expected to know the difference and be responsible and if not, thats one the perks of freedom–consequence and knowledge.

    But the real psychosis,is “prohibition psychosis” The act of purging or cleansing like an obsessive compulsive would do in a ritual,the Orwellian “drug free society’ idealism, that has manifested itself into a huge monster.Near life sentences,destroyed reputations ,destroyed careers.Swat teams doing raids,maiming animals and children.Property seizures over an herb less toxic to the body than baby aspirin.THATS INSANITY.

  12. “But the real psychosis,is “prohibition psychosis” The act of purging or cleansing like an obsessive compulsive would do in a ritual,the Orwellian “drug free society’ idealism, that has manifested itself into a huge monster.Near life sentences,destroyed reputations ,destroyed careers.Swat teams doing raids,maiming animals and children.Property seizures over an herb less toxic to the body than baby aspirin.THATS INSANITY.”

    As is looking at, reviewing all these problems and still managing to argue to continue this policy… Police that live their lives helping society by enforcing most laws, while doing damage to society by enforcing Drug Laws; the psychological stress must be unbearable so they just go into complete denial. I suppose.

  13. And for everyone that thinks that this dangerous “Skunk Weed’ is such a detriment to society,because it triggered anxiety attacks in susceptible individuals in London.

    Maybe they should be forewarned of this common menace: Caffeine Induced Psychosis– – Read what Nutritional biochemist Stephen Cherniske,says in his book: absolutely horrifying!

    Here is some more info on this caffeine epidemic.

    So i guess the common sense thing to do, for people that are susceptible to Caffeine-Related Anxiety,is, to either abstain or cut back on consumption.

  14. Profiteering from misinformation seems to be the result of political intransegence. Combined with LEO victimization for fiscal harmony has eroded respect for authority and the future acceptence of this government.

  15. Valid points all about the clinical anxiety caused by the drug war and prohibition that has created an unhealthy psychosis between both individuals and American society at large. To follow your point, Dave, look at L.E.A.P. (Not only the acronym that Mexweed mentions, which is more introspective, but I mean the organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).
    There is a great video of one former drug agent and policewoman who turned to LEAP who said, “It is so hard to go against one’s own soul… When you have dedicated your life to stopping what you have been trained to fight and perceive as a criminal, and then someone wants to tell you that YOU are the criminal? That’s what LEAP is for; a support group of law enforcement who understand what it’s like to live that “high” of seeking the criminal, then coming to understand that prohibition is wrong.”

    Too many in the DOJ, even after Holder’s decision, are so deep in denial and psychosis trying to justify their crimes and civil asset forfeitures that they perceive the adrenalin of their job as a drug itself… An addiction to property seizures that is only dispelled when either they or one of their own officers die during a drug mission. Then either the surviving drug warriors “wake up” to the reality of their disposition, or, to quote Yoda, “Fear feeds hatred… And leads to the Dark side of the Force.”

    While cannabis, particularly those high in CBDs, have provided vital treatment for a variety of mental disorders on a chemical level, I would just like to thank Attorney General Eric Holder for ending a deeply troubling socio-economic disorder in our society by ending civil asset forfeitures that allow bad cops to empower themselves by taking land, life and liberty without due process, targeting in particular members of our society either unwilling or unable to defend themselves for the last 45 years.
    As Loretta Lynch’s nomination FINALLY clears the Senate floor (maybe this March?) we look forward to her continuation of the fine stewardship of Attorney General that Eric Holder has left behind. After all, if Lynch’s and Pres. Obama’s agenda is to end the disproportionate incarceration and exploitation of African Americans (a cyclical world of psychosis in itself) then we will have to do far more than remove evil portions of prohibition, but end all of prohibition’s psychotic laws and principles from the DOJ’s SOD program to the CSAct itself.

    Anxiety happens for a reason. 45 years of civil asset forfeiture, violence and incarceration before treatment to minorities, the sick and the impoverished have created a mental health crisis that will take further efforts like the one Holder, and more recently, D.C. Mayor Bowser, made to start the healing process this nation desperately needs.

    It is truly an inspiration to see it happen!

  16. I was thinking for some time about the claims of some Colorado scholars that the evidence is ‘mixed’ on the risk of hemp and cancer, and the risk of psychological problems.

    The claim that there is some link with cancer should be treated with some skepticism, since both the New England Journal of Medicine and Britain’s similarly prestigious The Lancet both conducted extensive reviews of existing studies, and found no statistically significant correlation. This, of course, may need to be modified as new evidence becomes available; but these study reviews are pretty conclusive.

    The claim that it causes psychological disorders is more plausible; but we must be careful to distinguish direct effects from social effects. I would suggest that hemp bud and leaf smokers (to use the English words for it, if I may be so bold) who have increased paranoia, for example, will naturally acquire said paranoia as a natural consequence of fear of arrest. Likewise, those who live in houses or apartments which have a policy against smoking it, but do imbibe, will very likely have similar paranoia. It is then no stretch to suppose that this additional psychological stress, over the long-term, may lead to further psychological and even other medical complications.

    On the other hand, I read of a study of Colorado high-schoolers which had a greater incidence of psychological problems. This seems plausible; since it was said to have been conducted since legalization. I think more study is needed for such problems. Correlational studies of smoking hemp and psychological problems should be treated with some skepticism in locales where it is still illegal or taboo – especially now that it is legal in enough locales for better studies to more easily be performed. Such studies should not only take into account if it is legal or not; but also if such activity was taboo in the majority of the circumstances in which it was actually imbibed; on an individual basis. We can have a clearer handle on the truth of the matter, IMHO, when we have studies conducted by both supporters and detractors of legalization of hemp smoking. Hopefully, once studies where bias resulting in systematic error (including dishonesty and unfair methodology) are excluded, the resulting studies will (again hopefully) largely be in agreement.

    This, of course, should be balanced against 1) the medical and psychological problems caused by incarceration, which the U.S. has, I believe, the highest rate per capita of in the world, 2) the high civic cost of incarceration, and negative effects on the psychological and medical well-being that such impoverishment might have, 3) the medical and psychological problems caused by organized crime, and 4) the degree to which traffic accidents are likely to, and might turn to actually do, decrease; to the degree that drinkers can be induced to smoke hemp instead, not just in addition to.

  17. The thing is people who use weed sometimes drink alcohol which damages the nerves in your body. I suffer from alcohol damage in my limbs. I hope people will come to their scenes and not listen to these ignorant people with false studies.

  18. it has been 6 years and 11 days since I have been forced to give hair samples to my employer to continue a very reasonable job . before that , it was every day after work and all weekend when applicable , I learned in those preceding 32 years that I did not have to consume a lot of it to enjoy its benefits. I find it insane to drink to failure when it is only meant to break the tension from the work day. so why do this with cannabis especially since cannabis is so much a better and completely different buzz. I use it only to hone the sharp edge of the day and weekends to get my creativity goin on.
    One day, when I am able to be free once more, whatever the grade , I will use little and see what will happen first , then adjust as wanted to prevent any over use resulting in psychosis or anxiety issues that may come from over use of todays potent herb. I can be responsible while opening my mind with this awesome little helper, cannabis. I say all this because I am thankful that it has been put on this earth for us to use and if all folks could be responsible with it, the picture may look a little different to those who do not consume. that is the part , to me , that matters. more would vote in favor if they could see more of the good.
    thank you to norml for all the hard work to get us this far. at 57, I must admit I cannot see legalization before I die but am always hoping I am wrong! Someone burn one for me!

  19. The act of purging or cleansing like an obsessive compulsive would do in a ritual,the Orwellian “drug free society’ idealism, that has manifested itself into a huge monster.Near life sentences,destroyed reputations ,destroyed careers.Swat teams doing raids,maiming animals and children.Property seizures over an herb less toxic to the body than baby aspirin.THATS INSANITY.” – Dave Evans

    Let’s examine the language of Cannabis prohibition/Drug War?

    Positive drug test = “Dirty”

    Negative drug test = “Clean”

    The very concepts of “Clean’ and “Sober” reveal the continuing legacy of Puritan religious concepts based on The Wholly Babble.

    The relevant words in any rational
    (science based) society should refer to Health, Wellness and Safety…but… that would only concern a society less obsessed with “clean” and “dirty”?

  20. Thanks Eric for those discoveries, I wanted to add that “clean” and “dirty” obsession is designed and promulgated to make Money for the Propa & Ganda Co. and its oligoparchy partners.

    “Clean”, “Cleanse” etc. related to “Killing(s):

    “Its invigorating tingle tells you it’s killing millions of germs!” — spoken by British accent speaker in 1998 Scope radio ad– yeah, wash your mouth out with Scope, heh heh.

    “Tide kills 99.9% of all germs in your clothing”– ad seen on bus the last week of 1999, hmmm.

    Meanwhile big $oap companies make a ton off the $igarette habit:

    * SCOPE mouthwash to remove $igarette $tinkbreath so you can kiss the lady safely.

    * $ecret ($igarette, get it?) deodorant to remove $igarette body$tink

    * Comet, Mr. Clean, Spic n Span etc. to remove $igarette $tinkcrud from walls, bawseboards etc.

    * Tide etc. to get $igarette $tink out of your clothing

    * Crisco for the junk food appetite caused by $igarettes

    * P & G and its competitors have been buying up pHARMaceutical companies to cash in on diseases caused by $igarettes

    Well, what will cannabis legalization do to profits in that “industry”?

  21. The voices in my head come from the disgust of people trying to enforce their morals upon me.
    Let’s face it if you still were in contact with every person you ever knew that smoked cannabis how many suffer from a major psychosis or other disorder.Being disabled has put me in contact with some of these individuals and most never smoked a joint in their life and the few that do smoke says it helps them cope.These illnesses are very rare,though your boss may be psychotic.

  22. “Tide kills 99.9% of all germs in your clothing”– ad seen on bus the last week of 1999, hmmm. – mexweed

    Hmm, indeed!…makes me wonder how much money the “$oap makers” make from cleaning up the bloody stains…on our collective National soul?

  23. Ridiculous. Marijuana has been studied to the molecular level. Science has determined the exact process that induces psychosis provided by Marijuana.

    All the rhetorical junk excuses in the World cannot change reality.

  24. This is good information for consideration. Still believe strongly it does not make common sense for young people whose brains are still developing to be using marijuana and especially not marijuana and strong marijuana daily. It only makes sense that a drug that impacts the release of dopamines and that alters perception of reality could have significant impact on a growing brain. I don’t have a problem with marijuana use but after 21. In many ways marijuana is a medicine. We don’t give children the keys to the medicine cabinet

  25. I see a lot of literature that states marijuana has a terrible effect on schizophrenics. But one study I read said marijuana does not worsen schizophrenia. Goes to show big pharma pays psychiatrist to speak out.

  26. slightly different subject. my almost 91 year old mother suffered a fall that has brought on DLB, causing hallucinations. Any suggestions as to strands, tinctures or oils, doses, etc.

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