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The literature on psychosis-relevant outcomes in cannabis users does not adequately address the confounding effects of other substance use/misuse and psychiatric disorders.
We studied a unique population for whom cannabis use is central and necessary to their way of life. They are forbidden from using other substances, including tobacco and alcohol. Their use of cannabis is heavy, chronic, and begins early. The cases were compared with matched controls who did not use cannabis, alcohol, or drugs. The controls were from the same location and shared similar beliefs and lifestyle, except for cannabis use. Attenuated psychosis-relevant phenomena were assessed with the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire (SPQ) and cognitive functioning with a culture-neutral computerized cognitive battery.
Fifteen cases and 12 matched controls were studied. The cases averaged >30 000 lifetime cannabis exposures. Relative to controls, the cases had significantly higher mean (s.d.) SPQ scores 24 (14.32) v. 13 (8.92), p = 0.031; and poorer cognitive performance, reflected by a lower mean (s.d.) composite cognitive score −0.23 (0.32) v. +0.28 (0.52), p = 0.03. Moderate to large effect sizes were noted for differences in tests of attention, psychomotor speed, working memory, cognitive flexibility, visuo-spatial processing, and verbal memory. A subsample of cases had higher SPQ scores and worse cognitive performance than their siblings not using cannabis.
Heavy, chronic, and early cannabis use that is not confounded by other drug use is associated with psychosis-relevant phenomena and cognitive deficits. The findings are relevant to the evolving attitudes and laws about cannabis.
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