March 8, 2024

In recent years, psychiatrists have seen a significant increase in cases involving both THC and psychotic episodes. For some practitioners, that increase in cannabis-induced psychosis accounts for as much as 20 percent of their caseloads.

But what are the triggers behind this dangerous trend? And how do drug courts address the dangers of THC-related psychoses in sustainable ways?

Cannabis-Induced Psychosis: Significant Risk Factors

While there is some debate about the exact relationship between marijuana use and psychoses like schizophrenia, the American Journal of Psychiatry reports that there is evidence to support THC-related causality for cannabis-induced psychosis.

Cannabis Potency

The growing potency of cannabis over the last 25 years has increased the risks associated with its use. In 1995, THC concentration was around 4%, but in 2017, the THC concentration in most samples was around 17%—more than 400% stronger over the 22-year period.

Today, we are seeing the fallout of this increased potency in the form of more intense highs, more unpredictable effects, and a sharp increase in cannabis-induced psychotic episodes. And with new forms of less detectable and more concentrated ingestibles, it’s easier than ever to take doses that far exceed the familiar doses of the past.

User Age

The age of a user is a significant factor in determining if individuals will experience cannabis-induced psychotic episodes. Specifically, people between the ages of 16 and 25 are far more likely to experience psychotic episodes than those older than 25.

The most likely reason for this increased risk is connected to the development of the brain in these years. Our brains are not fully developed until the age of 25, leaving more room for neurological changes from heavy or frequent substance use earlier in a user’s life.

Genetic and Hereditary Risks

Individuals with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders in their family history are more likely to experience psychotic episodes due to cannabis use.

Psychiatric History

Likewise, individuals who have experienced past psychotic episodes or have been previously diagnosed with psychoses will be at a greater risk of experiencing cannabis-induced psychotic episodes.

Use Patterns

In several studies, use patterns were a determining factor in cannabis-induced psychotic episodes. Moderate and heavy use, as well as cannabis abuse disorders, carried greater risks for developing psychoses than occasional use.

Dosage Thresholds

Although long-term and heavy use can increase the risk of cannabis-induced psychosis, there is no known threshold for psychotic episodes. Some individuals have reported psychotic episodes after only one instance of use, while others have experienced no episodes even after repeated or significant doses.

Why THC-Related Psychotic Episodes Are Concerning

Psychoses are typically chronic and detrimental to those who suffer from them. Schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder all have devastating ramifications for many individuals. Cannabis-induced psychotic episodes come with the same risks as natural-onset psychotic episodes, with one notable exception: it’s a controllable variable.

Increased Hospitalizations

People suffering from psychotic episodes often turn to emergency departments for emergent care needs. Episodes brought on by cannabis use, however, are becoming more common. And with continued efforts to legalize marijuana, emergency departments are likely to see even more cannabis-related hospitalizations.

Permanent Effects

In a 2017 study, about 47% of individuals who had experienced even a single psychotic episode after cannabis use later converted to either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the symptoms of which seldom disappear once diagnosed.

Preventable Risks

More than any other reason for concern, psychiatrists warn that cannabis is a controllable environmental risk for psychotic episodes and long-term psychotic conditions. In one study highlighted by the National Institutes of Health, it was determined that up to 13% of schizophrenia could be prevented in adolescence if cannabis use was completely avoided.

Drug Testing for Support and Prevention of Cannabis-Induced Psychosis

According to Psychiatric Times, abstaining from cannabis use is the most effective intervention for preventing future cannabis-induced psychotic episodes. However, this method is often considered the hardest to implement and maintain. But with proven tools, abstinence is not only possible but positive for individuals struggling with cannabis use. One such tool is the PharmChek® Drugs of Abuse Sweat Patch.

PharmChek®'s reliable results, backed by courts for more than 30 years, help individuals maintain 24-hour accountability without sacrificing mobility, freedom, and convenience.

Hygienic Collection

PharmChek® uses sweat instead of urine, blood, or saliva. It’s a cleaner, simpler drug testing method, and it does not require special degrees or certifications beyond our online certification.

Tamper-Evident Design

Our design minimizes the risk of adulteration or tampering with samples, making results more reliable when compared with other conventional methods.

Long-Term Accountability

Most drug testing methods offer a limited window for detection, sometimes as little as a few hours. PharmChek® provides continuous sampling for a week or more, providing extended accountability.

Noninvasive Procedure

The PharmChek® Sweat Patch maintains privacy and dignity for the donor, and its gender-indifferent collection procedure means that drug courts can schedule collections much more easily than conventional methods.

When implemented as a part of a holistic recovery program, the PharmChek® Sweat Patch can help drug courts prevent cannabis-induced psychosis. Reach out today to find out more.