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Epidemiological evidence demonstrates that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of psychotic outcomes, and confirms a dose-response relationship between the level of use and the risk of later psychosis. High-potency cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids carry the greatest risk. Experimental administration of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient of cannabis, induces transient psychosis in normal subjects, but this effect can be ameliorated by co-administration of cannabidiol. This latter is a constituent of traditional hashish, but is largely absent from modern high-potency forms of cannabis. Argument continues over the extent to which genetic predisposition is correlated to, or interacts with, cannabis use, and what proportion of psychosis could be prevented by minimizing heavy use. As yet, there is not convincing evidence that cannabis use increases risk of other psychiatric disorders, but there are no such doubts concerning its detrimental effect on cognitive function. All of the negative aspects are magnified if use starts in early adolescence. Irrespective of whether use of cannabis is decriminalized or legalized, the evidence that it is a component cause of psychosis is now sufficient for public health messages outlining the risk, especially of regular use of high-potency cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalWorld Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date22 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • brain structure
  • Cannabis
  • cognitive function
  • early adolescence
  • genetic predisposition
  • marijuana
  • psychosis
  • synthetic cannabinoids


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