BACKGROUND: Many studies have reported that cannabis use increases the risk of a first episode of psychosis (FEP). However, only a few studies have investigated the nature of cannabis-related experiences in FEP patients, and none has examined whether these experiences are similar in FEP and general populations. The aim of this study was to explore differences in self-reported cannabis experiences between FEP and non-psychotic populations.
METHOD: A total of 252 subjects, who met International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 criteria for FEP, and 217 controls who reported cannabis use were selected from the Genetics and Psychosis (GAP) study. The Medical Research Council Social Schedule and the Cannabis Experience Questionnaire were used to collect sociodemographic data and cannabis use information, respectively.
RESULTS: Both 'bad' and 'enjoyable' experiences were more commonly reported by FEP subjects than controls. Principal components factor analysis identified four components which explained 62.3% of the variance. Linear regression analysis on the whole sample showed that the type of cannabis used and beliefs about the effect of cannabis on health all contributed to determining the intensity and frequency of experiences. Linear regression analysis on FEP subjects showed that the duration of cannabis use and amount of money spent on cannabis were strongly related to the intensity and frequency of enjoyable experiences in this population.
CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest a higher sensitivity to cannabis effects among people who have suffered their first psychotic episode; this hypersensitivity results in them reporting both more 'bad' and 'enjoyable' experiences. The greater enjoyment experienced may provide an explanation of why FEP patients are more likely to use cannabis and to continue to use it despite experiencing an exacerbation of their psychotic symptoms.
- Cannabis Experience Questionnaire
- first episode of psychosis