Marijuana & Psychosis: Should Patients be Wary?

Worried about psychosis? Psychosis is a serious affliction, so it’s smart to be vigilant.  But, here’s what most people don’t realize about marijuana and psychosis.

Marijuana and Psychosis: Here's a surprising list of things that can increase the risk of psychosis (more than cannabis)

There’s a long list of surprising things that increase your risk of psychosis MORE than marijuana.

So yes it’s smart to be concerned about the risks of cannabis.  However, patients must compare the risk to other factors for a more accurate perception of the true danger.

Marijuana & Psychosis – Do medical marijuana patients need to worry?

Some argue that cannabis should remain illegal because of allegations that marijuana may increase the risk of psychosis.  These allegations have been around for decades.  They go back to the 1930’s when cannabis prohibition first swept the country.

So, what does the research actually say?  Does cannabis cause psychosis?  What even is psychosis?

What is Psychosis?

Psychosis is a relatively common symptom of many illnesses and diseases (mental or otherwise). It can be transient (passing) or recurrent (as in cases like schizophrenia).

  • An individual’s thought processes and perceptions are altered.
  • Patients may lose touch with reality and not be aware of their odd behavior.
  • Episodic psychosis can be caused by many factors including common substances, dehydration, and sleep deprivation.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness states,

“Psychosis is a symptom, not an illness, and it is more common than you may think. In the U.S., approximately 100,000 young people experience psychosis each year. As many as three in 100 people will have an episode at some point in their lives.” Early Psychosis & Psychosis 

Marijuana and Psychosis: Here's a surprising list of things that can increase the risk of psychosis (more than cannabis)

Does Marijuana Really Increase the Risk of Psychosis?

It’s probable.

No direct link has been found, but research does indicate that using cannabis use might increase the risk of experiencing psychosis in SOME people.

This appears to be especially true if the marijuana use occurs during adolescence.

Some studies found that smoking marijuana can double the risk of experiencing psychosis at some point in life.

Current Psychiatry:  Cannabis, Synthetic Cannabinoids, and Psychosis Risk: What the Evidence Says


This doesn’t mean that cannabis makes people psychotic.

A direct link has not been established and many different factors can affect the development of psychosis.  Most often the incidences of psychosis occur much later in life and therefore cannot be directly attributed to cannabis use.

However, a link between cannabis use and psychosis is not surprising.

After all, LOTS of things increase the risk of psychosis!

In fact, there’s a surprisingly long list of life experiences, medications, and even foods that can increase the risk of psychosis.  And many items on this list increase the risk more drastically cannabis.


Surprising things that increase the risk of psychosis. (Some more so than marijuana.)

Childhood Adversity

Childhood adversity can quadruple the risk of developing psychosis later in life.  Children suffering from incidents of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and bullying (including cyber-bullying) have 2-4 times the risk of experiencing psychosis in adulthood.

World Psychiatry:  Childhood adversities and psychosis: evidence, challenges, implications


Cigarette Smoking

Some studies indicate that smoking tobacco can triple the risk of psychosis.  (Huh.  But tobacco is perfectly legal?)

The Guardian:  Smoking tobacco might increase the risk for schizophrenia, say researchers


Moving as a Child

Moving to a new country during childhood triples the risk of developing psychosis.

 Live Science:  Immigration in childhood increases risk of psychosis


Living in City

“New research indicates kids living in urban areas of the U.K. are almost twice as likely to suffer a psychotic episode by age 12,” claims IFL Science.

IFL Science:  Urban living may increase risk of psychosis among children



As little as five cups of coffee can CAUSE psychosis in some people!

Live Science: Caffeine can cause psychosis. 


Sleep Deprivation

Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation causes symptoms of psychosis.

Scientific American: Can a lack of sleep cause psychiatric disorders?


Monosodium Glutamate – MSG

Excess glutamate has been repeatedly linked to psychosis and brain damage, yet, unlike cannabis, MSG is perfectly legal. Worst of all, MSG hides under a hundred different names on food labels.

Read: Secret Sources of MSG:  Here’s what’s hiding in your food

Neuron:  Imaging Patients with Psychosis and a Mouse Model Establishes a Spreading Pattern of Hippocampal Dysfunction and Implicates Glutamate as a Driver

Marijuana and Psychosis: Here's a surprising list of things that can increase the risk of psychosis (more than cannabis)


Too much nutmeg (yes, the common household spice) can induce psychosis.  In fact, this spice has a history of abuse for its hallucinogenic properties.

Read:  Why Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie is more Dangerous than My Weed

St. John’s Wort

A 2004 study in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that St. John’s Wort causes psychosis in some people.

International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology:  Can St. John’s wort trigger psychoses?



A psychotic break from stress is called brief psychotic disorder – it’s pretty common after trauma or loss.  The truth is just living a normal life can increase our risk of developing psychosis, but the risk still remains low.

Medline:  Brief Psychotic Disorder


According to the British Journal of Psychiatry, “Alcohol induced psychotic disorder is a severe mental disorder with poor outcome.”  Plus, alcoholics are very high risk for experience psychosis during withdrawal.


Chronic exposure to pesticides has been shown to cause psychosis (and a variety of other health effects), yet we still consume them daily.

Toxicological Sciences:  Neuropsychiatric Evaluation in Subjects Chronically Exposed to Organophosphate Pesticides


Common Chemicals

Inhalant abuse can be deadly.  Studies show a large variety of chemicals can cause episodes of psychosis and the substances are easily attainable.  Butane, gasoline fumes, paint thinner fumes, & fumes from many household products like shoe polish, glue, cleaners etc.  can cause psychosis.

Psychiatric Services: Treatment of Inhalant-Induced Psychotic Disorder With Carbamazepine Versus Haloperidol


An alarming number of medications have been linked to psychosis.  Numerous over-the-counter medications and pharmaceuticals can increase the risk.


ADHD Medicines

NSAIDS (especially in the elderly)

Cold Medicines



Xanax (and other Benzodiazepines)







Blood pressure Medications


Here’s a list of over 100 legal medications that may increase the risk of or trigger psychosis.

Marijuana and Psychosis: Here's a surprising list of things that can increase the risk of psychosis (more than cannabis)


Who’s at risk.

Most people don’t need to be overly concerned about developing psychosis.  However, anyone with a history or family history of psychosis is already at an increased risk.

Patients with a history of psychosis or family history should take action to avoid risk factors.  Avoid recreational cannabis and alcohol use.  Avoid MSG and pesticides.  Reduce stress levels and live a healthy lifestyle.  Discuss ALL medications with a licensed healthcare practitioners.


Should medical marijuana patients worry about psychosis?

There are risks for ALL medications, including medical marijuana.  Medical marijuana should be treated like any other medicine.

Patients must fully disclose their health history to their licensed medical practitioner. Together they can carefully weigh the risks vs benefits of medical marijuana.

It’s time to change the conversation.  Cannabis might increase the risk of psychosis in SOME,  but that’s no different than countless other medications, experiences, and even foods.  #legalize



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Written by Jessie Gill

Jessie Gill, RN is a cannabis nurse with a background in holistic health and hospice. After suffering a spinal injury, she reluctantly became a medical marijuana patient then quickly transitioned into an advocate. Her site, combines science with personal insight to educate about medical marijuana. She’s been featured on Viceland and bylines include GoodHousekeeping, Cosmopolitan, MSN, and more.

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