With large studies in peer-reviewed journals showing that marijuana increases the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia, the scientific literature around the drug is far more negative than it was 20 years ago.
Diego was a 20-year-old college junior who was brought to the emergency room by the police. They were called by his resident advisor for bizarre behavior in the dormitory. Diego was anxious, frequently glancing around the room, and talked in a disorganized manner about the Illuminati, Freemasons and the end of the world.
A urine drug screen was positive for cannabis. When asked later during the hospitalization, his resident advisor reported Diego smoked marijuana daily, and Diego admitted to being a daily marijuana smoker since arriving at college.
Young people with cannabis dependence have altered brain function that may be the source of emotional disturbances and increased psychosis risk that are associated with cannabis abuse, according to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The alterations were most pronounced in people who started using cannabis at a young age. The findings reveal potential negative long-term effects of heavy cannabis use on brain function and behavior, which remain largely unknown despite the drug's wide use and efforts to legalize the substance.
I recently finished my residency in emergency medicine and began to practice in Pueblo, Colorado. I grew up there, and I was excited to return home. However, when I returned home, the Pueblo I once knew had drastically changed. Where there were once hardware stores, animal feed shops, and homes along dotted farms, I now found marijuana shops—and lots of them. As of January 2016, there were 424 retail marijuana stores in Colorado compared with 202 McDonald’s restaurants.1
These stores are not selling the marijuana I had seen in high school. Multiple different types of patients are coming into the emergency department with a variety of unexpected problems such as marijuana-induced psychosis, dependence, burn injuries, increased abuse of other drugs, increased homelessness and its associated problems, and self-medication with marijuana to treat their medical problems instead of seeking appropriate medical care.