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There may be biological plausibility to the notion that cannabis use and childhood trauma or maltreatment synergistically increase the risk for later development of psychotic symptoms. To replicate and further investigate this issue, prospective data from two independent population-based studies, the Greek National Perinatal Study (n=1636) and The Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS) (n=4842), were analyzed.
Two different data sets on cannabis use and childhood maltreatment were used. In a large Greek population-based cohort study, data on cannabis use at age 19 years and childhood maltreatment at 7 years were assessed. In addition, psychotic symptoms were assessed using the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences (CAPE). In NEMESIS, the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) was used to assess psychotic symptoms at three different time points along with childhood maltreatment and lifetime cannabis use.
A significant adjusted interaction between childhood maltreatment and later cannabis use was evident in both samples, indicating that the psychosis-inducing effects of cannabis were stronger in individuals exposed to earlier sexual or physical mistreatment [Greek National Perinatal Study: test for interaction F(2, 1627)=4.18, p=0.02; NEMESIS: test for interaction χ2(3)=8.08, p=0.04].
Cross-sensitivity between childhood maltreatment and cannabis use may exist in pathways that shape the risk for expression of positive psychotic symptoms.
Cannabis use is considered a component cause of psychotic illness, interacting with genetic and other environmental risk factors. Little is known, however, about these putative interactions. The present study investigated whether an urban environment plays a role in moderating the effects of adolescent cannabis use on psychosis risk.
Prospective data (n=1923, aged 14–24 years at baseline) from the longitudinal population-based German Early Developmental Stages of Psychopathology cohort study were analysed. Urbanicity was assessed at baseline and defined as living in the city of Munich (1562 persons per km2; 4061 individuals per square mile) or in the rural surroundings (213 persons per km2; 553 individuals per square mile). Cannabis use and psychotic symptoms were assessed three times over a 10-year follow-up period using the Munich version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview.
Analyses revealed a significant interaction between cannabis and urbanicity [10.9% adjusted difference in risk, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.2–18.6, p=0.005]. The effect of cannabis use on follow-up incident psychotic symptoms was much stronger in individuals who grew up in an urban environment (adjusted risk difference 6.8%, 95% CI 1.0–12.5, p=0.021) compared with individuals from rural surroundings (adjusted risk difference −4.1%, 95% CI −9.8 to 1.6, p=0.159). The statistical interaction was compatible with substantial underlying biological synergism.
Exposure to environmental influences associated with urban upbringing may increase vulnerability to the psychotomimetic effects of cannabis use later in life.
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