The use of marijuana and other cannabis derivatives is a common phenomenon today, especially among the young population.

There is a popular perception that cannabis is a low-risk substance because it is “natural” and more or less traditional in some areas, so that it is generally consumed without much concern for possible side effects. However, the use of such substances has been shown to carry high health risks .

In particular, the review and analysis of different research reflects that there is a link between cannabis and psychotic disorders, with indications that cannabis increases the risk of a psychotic break, in some cases by up to 40% .

Cannabis and derivatives

Cannabis and its derivatives are among the most widely used illegal drugs worldwide, especially in Western society. Extracted from the plant Cannabis sativa , it is a type of substance that would be considered within the group of psychodisleptic drugs , psychoactive substances that produce a modification of the mental activity without it being considered totally excitatory or inhibitory.

In the specific case of cannabis, there is usually first an increase in activity and in a short time, a state of relaxation and sedation, along with other symptoms such as increased appetite or lack of motor coordination.

This drug can be found in very different forms according to the parts of the plant used, the most well-known derivatives being marijuana and hashish .

Consumption and social consideration

Its use dates back to antiquity, used as a medicinal and relaxing plant , and even today it is used to combat some symptoms of disease, such as the presence of vomiting, seizures and even anorexia or lack of hunger (not to be confused with anorexia nervosa, which would be the psychological disorder) that occurs in patients with different disorders.

However, apart from its medical properties, a large number of people use cannabis as a form of entertainment and relaxation because of the widespread perception that it is a low-risk drug. This consideration is due to the fact that cannabis and its derivatives do not have as many physiological effects as other drugs , and that they are generally considered not to cause much dependence unless used daily.

It is generally consumed by inhalation through cigarettes , although sometimes it is consumed orally (being for example the case of the well-known weed cakes). In general, its consumption is more frequent in adolescence and early adulthood, being less frequent in older ages .

Increased risk of psychotic breaks

As we have seen above, there is a consideration that using cannabis has no or very low risks. However, analysis of various research indicates that, while it has a lower risk to other substances, cannabinoid use causes a serious increase in the possibility of psychotic breaks.

The administration of this substance frequently causes the presence of auditory hallucinations or persecutory delusions , which although generally temporary can remain or trigger the repetition of subsequent psychotic outbreaks. In fact, one study indicates that cannabis increases the likelihood of awakening a psychotic disorder by up to 40 per cent , and that the likelihood may be much higher if used daily .

While cannabis is not considered to produce the psychotic disorder itself, it is a risk factor that may eventually trigger the disorder . In other words, there is a genetic predisposition to suffer an alteration of this type, a predisposition that may or may not be expressed.

Cannabis and Echizophrenia

In this case the use of cannabis is a factor that increases the risk of it being expressed, its risk being much higher than that of other substances. Thus, a person who has probably never had an outbreak has a very high probability of developing one. And one of the disorders associated with this use and psychotic breaks is schizophrenia, a severe disorder that can cause a high level of interference in everyday life. Other research shows that many schizophrenic cannabis-using patients have had their first psychotic episode up to seven years earlier than the average .

Other risks in marijuana use

It must also be taken into account the vital period in which the consumption of cannabinoids is usually carried out, which usually begins in adolescence and early adulthood. At this time the organism is still in the process of formation and change , having a greater reactivity to reward and punishment than at other times in life, making the brain more vulnerable and affected by long-term changes.

In addition to this, cannabis should be considered not only at the beginning of a psychotic break, but also in the course and prognosis of outbreaks and disorders. It has been shown that cannabis use in general interferes with and hinders treatment , and eventually facilitates relapse and new psychotic breaks in treated patients.


In conclusion, it is necessary to take into account and pay special attention to the risks posed by the use of cannabis, fighting the idea that it is harmless .

It has been documented that cannabinoids can cause amotivation syndrome, have carcinogenic properties and can eventually cause respiratory problems and sexual dysfunction, in addition to the spectacularly increased risk of psychotic breaks.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Arias, F., Sanchez, S. and Padin, J.J. (2002). Relevance of drug use in the clinical manifestations of schizophrenia. Proceedings Esp Psiquiatr; 30:65-73.
  • Barnes, T.R.; Mutsatsa, S.H.; Hutton, S.B.; Watt, H.C. & Joyce, E.M. (2006). Comorbid substance use and age at onset of schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry; 188:237-42.
  • Moore, T.H.M.; Zammit, S.; Lingford-Hughes, A.; Barnes, T.R.E.; Jones, P.B.; Burke, M. & Lewis, G. (2007). Cannabis use and risk of psychotic or affective mental health outcomes: a systematic review. The Lancet. volume 370, 9584; p.319-328.
  • Santos, J.L. ; García, L.I. ; Calderón, M.A. ; Sanz, L.J.; de los Ríos, P.; Izquierdo, S.; Román, P.; Hernangómez, L.; Navas, E.; Ladrón, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical Psychology. Manual CEDE de Preparación PIR, 02. CEDE. Madrid.