Teen Cannabis Use May Increase Risk of Psychiatric Disorders

Medscape Staff

July 31, 2023

The use of cannabis by teenagers may greatly increase their risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders, particularly young boys, according to two studies involving clinical psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia as well as Mental Health Services in the Capital Region of Denmark and the National Institute on Drug Abuse

What to Know

  • The proportion of new schizophrenia cases that may be attributed to cannabis use disorder (the inability to stop using) has consistently increased over the past five decades, and the disorder appears to be a major modifiable risk factor for schizophrenia at the population level, particularly among young men.

  • For young men aged 21–30, it is estimated that the proportion of preventable cases of schizophrenia related to cannabis use disorder may be as high as 30%.

  • For teens without a cannabis use disorder but who still used cannabis recreationally, the study showed a 2 to 2.5 times increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes, while teens with a use disorder had a 3.5 to 4.5 times increased risk.

  • It is estimated that 15% of cases of schizophrenia male persons aged 16–49 could have been avoided in 2021 by preventing cannabis use disorder, in contrast to 4% among female persons aged 16–49.

  • Statistics show that 1 in 10 cannabis users were recreational users, and roughly 1 in 40 were considered to meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder, but the link to the increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders was found even among teens who only used cannabis recreationally.

This is a summary of two studies, "Young Men at Highest Risk of Schizophrenia Linked With Cannabis Use Disorder," from the National Institutes of Health, published on May 4, 2023, which is available at NIH.gov, and "Nondisordered Cannabis Use Among US Adolescents," published in JAMA on May 3, 2023, which is available at jamanetwork.com.

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