Can Weed Cause Psychosis?

weed cause psychosis

Can weed cause psychosis? Yes, but only if you’re predisposed to have a psychotic disorder.

If you do have a psychotic disorder, or you know one runs in your family, you should refrain from smoking marijuana, eating it, or ingesting it in any way.

However, a component of Cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), when chemically isolated and administered by a doctor in a controlled setting, actually treats psychosis, according to a robust body of cutting-edge research.

Can weed cause psychosis? Does marijuana cause schizophrenia?

Marijuana is not a wholly benign substance, and for people with a predisposition for either schizophrenia or schizotypal disorder, well, they shouldn’t use it. Ever.

In fact, people with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia or schizotypal disorder may never exhibit symptoms except for the use of marijuana, according to a number of studies.

No scientist or researcher understands exactly how this works yet, but please, if you fall into this category, don’t use marijuana.

can weed cause psychosis like that seen in individuals with schizophrenia?
Artist Louis Wane documented his descent into schizphrenia with a series of drawings.

For such individuals, having a firm yes to the question “does weed cause psychosis” can come as a saddening shock. If you’re bummed about it, treat pot avoidance the same way your friends do a gluten allergy, peanut allergy, or shellfish allergy. Tell them you’re allergic and may have a serious reaction.

Do not be convinced to use marijuana in this situation, even if it’s socially easier on you. In fact, people under 18 who use marijuana and also have a family history of psychotic disorders are way more likely to have a psychotic episode after using weed — whether eating or smoking it.

If you have a predisposition to psychosis of any kind and are already using marijuana, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse to find resources to help you quit. Strong evidence shows that people who already exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia are not only more likely to be addicted to marijuana, but that addiction will likely worsen the disorder and make treatment more difficult.

Furthermore, this effect directly increases the more often you use cannabis and the higher your dosage.

Can cannabidiol help treat schizophrenia and psychosis?

In attempts to answer the question “can weed cause psychosis”, researchers set out to identify which of the cannabinoids found in cannabis could be cited as culprits. Surprisingly, while all of the above is true for whole marijuana, when doctors administer a single specific component of marijuana to a patient in a medically controlled regimen, it has actually been proven useful in fighting psychosis. That chemical is cannabidiol or CBD.

does weed cause psychosis? Yes, but CBD doesn't necessarilly.
The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This substance has long been documented as a potential trigger and outright cause of psychosis. In fact, the synthetic THC distillate called Marinol has been in legal use for cancer patients since the 1970s, and psychosis is included in the side effects listed in the Food and Drug Administration’s prescribing information.

But evidence in animals, healthy volunteers for human clinical trials, trials in schizophrenia patients, and brain imaging studies have shown CBD alone to have a strong antipsychotic effects.

“CBD prevented human experimental psychosis and was effective in open case reports and clinical trials in patients with schizophrenia,” according to a 2012 meta analysis published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design. “Moreover, fMRI results strongly suggest that the antipsychotic effects of CBD.”

Within a few years of that study’s publication, researchers conducted further CBD trials on schizophrenia patients. Not only was CBD as effective as a common FDA-approved antipsychotic drug, but also had almost no side effects.

“After some individual treatment attempts, the first randomized, double-blind controlled clinical trial demonstrated that in acute schizophrenia, cannabidiol exerts antipsychotic properties comparable to the antipsychotic drug amisulpride while being accompanied by a superior, placebo-like side effect profile,” according to a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.

How does CBD work to control schizophrenia?

Scientists aren’t sure of the exact mechanism by which CBD helps calm the symptoms of psychosis, but it has something to do with the substance’s effect to increase anandamide levels.

Anandamide is a neurotransmitter called an “endocannabinoid,” which the body produces naturally as part of its endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a host of vital processes that regulate mood, appetite, healing, memory, sleep, emotion, motor functions and various other functions. Marijuana compounds partially mimic body’s own cannabinoid neurotransmitters to kick off the reactions that control these functions.

Half of the endocannabinoid system is a group of specific protein types that form openings in the membranes of mostly nerve cells.  Specific types of fat molecules, like anandamide, form the other half of the endocannabinoid system. Their function is to fit into the protein openings in the nerve cells like a key in a lock, kicking off a cascade of reactions governing mood, appetite and other functions.

weed cause psychosis. CBD can block THC.
THC mimics Anandamide. Since CBD can help block THC and curb a high, it could play a role in regulating Anandamide in the body to prevent the effects of Schizophrenia, which often times are eerily similar to being “too high”.

Endocannabinoids work a little differently than most neurotransmitters, however. They travel backward along the nerve to shut off an impulse once it has been carried in the form of a different neurotransmitter between one neuron and another. Because of this, some scientists have referred to endocannabinoids as the “traffic cop” of the nervous system.

This leads researchers to believe that the increased anandamide levels spurred on by administering CBD somehow regulate the faulty chain of neurochemical reactions that lead to schizophrenia and other psychoses.

But increased anandamide levels are just one of a “plethora” of theories researchers have posited on how CBD’s antipsychotic properties work.

“The clarification of these mechanisms as well as the establishment of cannabidiol’s antipsychotic efficacy and its hopefully benign side-effect profile remains the subject of a number of previously started clinical trials,” according to the 2016 Frontiers study.

Does weed cause psychosis? The evidence is definitely in full support that it can if you are already at-risk. However, the main culprit may be THC and CBD could actually stand to curb the symptoms and underlying endocannabinoid-related problems that cause schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.


“Cannabis use and the risk of developing a psychotic disorder”
Wayne Hall and Louisa Degenhardt
World Psychiatry
June 2008

“Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?”
National Institute on Drug Abuse
April 2017

“A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation.”
Zuardi AW et al
Current Pharmaceutical Design

“Cannabidiol as a Potential New Type of an Antipsychotic. A Critical Review of the Evidence”
Cathrin Rohleder et al
Frontiers in Pharmacology
Nov. 2016

“Pot Can Trigger Psychotic Symptoms For Some, But Do The Effects Last?”
Angus Chen
National Public Radio
March, 2015

“This Is How One Pot Smoker Learned That Weed Plays a Mysterious Role in Psychosis”
Sydney Lupkin
Vice News
Jan. 21, 2016

“Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System”
Bradley E. Alger, Ph.D.
Nov 2013

About Adam Townsend 50 Articles
Adam Maxwell Townsend has been a journalist for 15 years. His reporting has covered science, technology and medicine. Currently, he edits and writes medical and pharmaceutical articles for consumer websites, including WoahStork.

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