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First episode psychosis (FEP) patients who use cannabis experience more frequent psychotic and euphoric intoxication experiences compared to controls. It is not clear whether this is consequent to patients being more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis use or to their heavier pattern of use. We aimed to determine whether extent of use predicted psychotic-like and euphoric intoxication experiences in patients and controls and whether this differs between groups.
We analysed data on patients who had ever used cannabis (n = 655) and controls who had ever used cannabis (n = 654) across 15 sites from six countries in the EU-GEI study (2010–2015). We used multiple regression to model predictors of cannabis-induced experiences and to determine if there was an interaction between caseness and extent of use.
Caseness, frequency of cannabis use and money spent on cannabis predicted psychotic-like and euphoric experiences (p ⩽ 0.001). For psychotic-like experiences (PEs) there was a significant interaction for caseness × frequency of use (p < 0.001) and caseness × money spent on cannabis (p = 0.001) such that FEP patients had increased experiences at increased levels of use compared to controls. There was no significant interaction for euphoric experiences (p > 0.5).
FEP patients are particularly sensitive to increased psychotic-like, but not euphoric experiences, at higher levels of cannabis use compared to controls. This suggests a specific psychotomimetic response in FEP patients related to heavy cannabis use. Clinicians should enquire regarding cannabis related PEs and advise that lower levels of cannabis use are associated with less frequent PEs.
Acute cannabis administration can produce transient psychotic-like effects in healthy individuals. However, the mechanisms through which this occurs and which factors predict vulnerability remain unclear. We investigate whether cannabis inhalation leads to psychotic-like symptoms and speech illusion; and whether cannabidiol (CBD) blunts such effects (study 1) and adolescence heightens such effects (study 2).
Two double-blind placebo-controlled studies, assessing speech illusion in a white noise task, and psychotic-like symptoms on the Psychotomimetic States Inventory (PSI). Study 1 compared effects of Cann-CBD (cannabis containing Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and negligible levels of CBD) with Cann+CBD (cannabis containing THC and CBD) in 17 adults. Study 2 compared effects of Cann-CBD in 20 adolescents and 20 adults. All participants were healthy individuals who currently used cannabis.
In study 1, relative to placebo, both Cann-CBD and Cann+CBD increased PSI scores but not speech illusion. No differences between Cann-CBD and Cann+CBD emerged. In study 2, relative to placebo, Cann-CBD increased PSI scores and incidence of speech illusion, with the odds of experiencing speech illusion 3.1 (95% CIs 1.3–7.2) times higher after Cann-CBD. No age group differences were found for speech illusion, but adults showed heightened effects on the PSI.
Inhalation of cannabis reliably increases psychotic-like symptoms in healthy cannabis users and may increase the incidence of speech illusion. CBD did not influence psychotic-like effects of cannabis. Adolescents may be less vulnerable to acute psychotic-like effects of cannabis than adults.
Daily use of high-potency cannabis has been reported to carry a high risk for developing a psychotic disorder. However, the evidence is mixed on whether any pattern of cannabis use is associated with a particular symptomatology in first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients.
We analysed data from 901 FEP patients and 1235 controls recruited across six countries, as part of the European Network of National Schizophrenia Networks Studying Gene-Environment Interactions (EU-GEI) study. We used item response modelling to estimate two bifactor models, which included general and specific dimensions of psychotic symptoms in patients and psychotic experiences in controls. The associations between these dimensions and cannabis use were evaluated using linear mixed-effects models analyses.
In patients, there was a linear relationship between the positive symptom dimension and the extent of lifetime exposure to cannabis, with daily users of high-potency cannabis having the highest score (B = 0.35; 95% CI 0.14–0.56). Moreover, negative symptoms were more common among patients who never used cannabis compared with those with any pattern of use (B = −0.22; 95% CI −0.37 to −0.07). In controls, psychotic experiences were associated with current use of cannabis but not with the extent of lifetime use. Neither patients nor controls presented differences in depressive dimension related to cannabis use.
Our findings provide the first large-scale evidence that FEP patients with a history of daily use of high-potency cannabis present with more positive and less negative symptoms, compared with those who never used cannabis or used low-potency types.
As new cannabis products and administration methods proliferate, patterns of use are becoming increasingly heterogeneous. However, few studies have explored different profiles of cannabis use and their association with problematic use.
Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to identify subgroups of past-year cannabis users endorsing distinct patterns of use from a large international sample (n = 55 240). Past-12-months use of six different cannabis types (sinsemilla, herbal, hashish, concentrates, kief, edibles) were used as latent class indicators. Participants also reported the frequency and amount of cannabis used, whether they had ever received a mental health disorder diagnosis and their cannabis dependence severity via the Severity of Dependence Scale (SDS).
LCA identified seven distinct classes of cannabis use, characterised by high probabilities of using: sinsemilla & herbal (30.3% of the sample); sinsemilla, herbal & hashish (20.4%); herbal (18.4%); hashish & herbal (18.8%); all types (5.7%); edibles & herbal (4.6%) and concentrates & sinsemilla (1.7%). Relative to the herbal class, classes characterised by sinsemilla and/or hashish use had increased dependence severity. By contrast, the classes characterised by concentrates use did not show strong associations with cannabis dependence but reported greater rates of ever receiving a mental health disorder diagnosis.
The identification of these distinct classes underscores heterogeneity among cannabis use behaviours and provides novel insight into their different associations with addiction and mental health.
Changes in cannabis regulation globally make it increasingly important to determine what predicts an individual's risk of experiencing adverse drug effects. Relevant studies have used diverse self-report measures of cannabis use, and few include multiple biological measures. Here we aimed to determine which biological and self-report measures of cannabis use predict cannabis dependency and acute psychotic-like symptoms.
In a naturalistic study, 410 young cannabis users were assessed once when intoxicated with their own cannabis and once when drug-free in counterbalanced order. Biological measures of cannabinoids [(Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) and their metabolites)] were derived from three samples: each participant's own cannabis (THC, CBD), a sample of their hair (THC, THC-OH, THC-COOH, CBN, CBD) and their urine (THC-COOH/creatinine). Comprehensive self-report measures were also obtained. Self-reported and clinician-rated assessments were taken for cannabis dependency [Severity of Dependence Scale (SDS), DSM-IV-TR] and acute psychotic-like symptoms [Psychotomimetic State Inventory (PSI) and Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS)].
Cannabis dependency was positively associated with days per month of cannabis use on both measures, and with urinary THC-COOH/creatinine for the SDS. Acute psychotic-like symptoms were positively associated with age of first cannabis use and negatively with urinary THC-COOH/creatinine; no predictors emerged for BPRS.
Levels of THC exposure are positively associated with both cannabis dependency and tolerance to the acute psychotic-like effects of cannabis. Combining urinary and self-report assessments (use frequency; age first used) enhances the measurement of cannabis use and its association with adverse outcomes.
The number of people entering specialist drug treatment for cannabis problems has increased considerably in recent years. The reasons for this are unclear, but rising cannabis potency could be a contributing factor.
Cannabis potency data were obtained from an ongoing monitoring programme in the Netherlands. We analysed concentrations of δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the most popular variety of domestic herbal cannabis sold in each retail outlet (2000–2015). Mixed effects linear regression models examined time-dependent associations between THC and first-time cannabis admissions to specialist drug treatment. Candidate time lags were 0–10 years, based on normative European drug treatment data.
THC increased from a mean (95% CI) of 8.62 (7.97–9.27) to 20.38 (19.09–21.67) from 2000 to 2004 and then decreased to 15.31 (14.24–16.38) in 2015. First-time cannabis admissions (per 100 000 inhabitants) rose from 7.08 to 26.36 from 2000 to 2010, and then decreased to 19.82 in 2015. THC was positively associated with treatment entry at lags of 0–9 years, with the strongest association at 5 years, b = 0.370 (0.317–0.424), p < 0.0001. After adjusting for age, sex and non-cannabis drug treatment admissions, these positive associations were attenuated but remained statistically significant at lags of 5–7 years and were again strongest at 5 years, b = 0.082 (0.052–0.111), p < 0.0001.
In this 16-year observational study, we found positive time-dependent associations between changes in cannabis potency and first-time cannabis admissions to drug treatment. These associations are biologically plausible, but their strength after adjustment suggests that other factors are also important.
The two main constituents of cannabis, cannabidiol and δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have opposing effects both pharmacologically and behaviourally when administered in the laboratory. Street cannabis is known to contain varying levels of each cannabinoid.
To study how the varying levels of cannabidiol and THC have an impact on the acute effects of the drug in naturalistic settings.
Cannabis users (n = 134) were tested 7 days apart on measures of memory and psychotomimetic symptoms, once while they were drug free and once while acutely intoxicated by their own chosen smoked cannabis. Using an unprecedented methodology, a sample of cannabis (as well as saliva) was collected from each user and analysed for levels of cannabinoids. On the basis of highest and lowest cannabidiol content of cannabis, two groups of individuals were directly compared.
Groups did not differ in the THC content of the cannabis they smoked. Unlike the marked impairment in prose recall of individuals who smoked cannabis low in cannabidiol, participants smoking cannabis high in cannabidiol showed no memory impairment. Cannabidiol content did not affect psychotomimetic symptoms, which were elevated in both groups when intoxicated.
The antagonistic effects of cannabidiol at the CB1 receptor are probably responsible for its profile in smoked cannabis, attenuating the memory-impairing effects of THC. In terms of harm reduction, users should be made aware of the higher risk of memory impairment associated with smoking low-cannabidiol strains of cannabis like ‘skunk’ and encouraged to use strains containing higher levels of cannabidiol.
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