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"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."

Abraham Lincoln - Former U.S. President

Cannabis & Health

Cannabis & Psychosis

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug. It is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and comes in three forms: marijuana, hashish and hash oil. The chemicals in cannabis interfere with normal brain functioning. Cannabis use can cause drug-induced psychosis, trigger the first episode of a psychotic illness or make a pre-existing psychotic illness worse. People who have, or may be at risk of developing, a psychotic illness should avoid using cannabis.

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug
Cannabis contains a chemical commonly known as THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is a psychoactive substance, which means that it travels in the bloodstream to the brain. It disrupts usual brain functioning and causes certain intoxicating effects, including:

  • A feeling of relaxation and wellbeing
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Increased talkativeness
  • A confused perception of space and time
  • Reduced ability to concentrate and remember
  • Reduced coordination – this makes it dangerous to drive or operate machinery while under the influence of the drug.

Heavy use may cause hallucinations
Other possible effects, which are more common with heavy cannabis use, include:

  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety.

Drug-induced psychosis
Cannabis use can cause a condition known as drug-induced psychosis. Symptoms usually appear quickly and last a relatively short time (a few days) until the effects of the cannabis wear off. Disorientation, memory problems and visual hallucinations are the most common symptoms.

People who already have a psychotic illness may experience longer lasting and more intense symptoms.

Cannabis effects last longer if you have a psychotic illness

The effects of cannabis begin within minutes and can last several hours. However, for people with a psychotic illness (such as schizophrenia), the effects can be longer lasting.

Cannabis can precipitate the first episode of psychosis
If someone has a predisposition to a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, use of drugs such as cannabis may trigger the first episode in what can be a lifelong, disabling condition. There is increasing evidence that regular cannabis use precedes and causes higher rates of psychotic illness. Psychotic illnesses are characterised by:

  • Delusions – for example, the person believes they have special powers.
  • Hallucinations – for example, the person hears voices or sees things that aren’t really there.
  • Thought disorder – for example, the person has difficulty organising their thoughts.

When people experience psychotic symptoms, they are unable to distinguish what is real. They lose contact with reality.

Psychotic symptoms can become worse
Cannabis use generally makes psychotic symptoms worse and lowers the chances of recovery from a psychotic episode. People with a psychotic illness who use drugs experience more delusions, hallucinations and other symptoms. They have a higher rate of hospitalisation for psychosis, and treatment is generally less effective. People with a psychotic illness should avoid using cannabis.

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