Why Cannabis Doesn’t Make Most People Psychotic

Picture: Psychonaught (PD)

If you sit toking on carrot sized joints all day every day it’s almost inevitable you will encounter problems when trying to live a productive life. However, it’s an often noted fact that plenty of people live that lifestyle and do not go round the proverbial bend. For years this has confused people when, on the other hand, there are some who clearly lose the plot after getting into the habitual ‘wake and bake’ mentality.

Lies and disinformation are a fact of life when it comes to illegal recreational substances. However, this story from Live Science, has a certain ring of truth about it:

People who smoke pot may be at increased risk for psychosis if they have a certain genetic marker, a new study finds.

The results show people with this genetic marker who use cannabis are twice as likely to experience psychosis compared with those who use the drug but do not have the genetic marker.

Among people who use the drug every day, the risk for psychosis increases sevenfold for those who have the genetic marker.

Previous studies have linked smoking marijuana with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, but only a small number of those who smoke pot will ever have a psychotic episode. The new finding could help identify which cannabis users might be at risk for this side effect, the researchers said.

“Our findings help to explain why one cannabis user develops psychosis while his friends continue smoking without problems,” said study researcher Dr. Marta Di Forti, of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

The study involved 489 people living in London who had experienced a psychotic episode, and 278 healthy people without a history of psychiatric disorders. [6 Foods that Are Good for Your Brain ]

The genetic marker in question is one variation of a gene call AKT1. The new finding confirms earlier research, which also linked this marker with the risk of psychosis after smoking pot.

The AKT1 gene is known to be involved in the signaling of the brain chemical dopamine, which is abnormal in those with psychosis, Di Forti said.

The genetic marker likely acts along with other genes to contribute to the risk of psychosis from cannabis smoking, the researchers said. Finding the genetic underpinnings of cannabis psychosis may lead to the development of therapies for the condition, said Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, the journal in which the study was published Nov. 15.

Original story at Live Science.

My personal opinion on this is that Western Governments have done huge damage to their credibility by consistently lying about the reasons behind the so-called war on drugs. This has led to people being misled into thinking cannabis is either as harmless as fresh air or equivalent to a vicious killer like crack cocaine. I suspect the truth is somewhere inbetween these two absurd positions.

Nick Margerrison

I write on Disinfo for fun, I've been a fan of the company for years.

In the real world I'm a freelance TV/radio presenter. I've worked for LBC, Kerrang Radio, The Bay, Edge Media TV, Hallam FM and The BBC.

My podcast is here: http://thecultofnick.libsyn.com/

48 Comments on "Why Cannabis Doesn’t Make Most People Psychotic"

  1. DeepCough | Nov 21, 2012 at 5:36 pm |

    It’s real, real easy to alleviate “cannabis psychosis”: it’s called “take a break and drink some water.”

    • Anonydude | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |

      As someone who experiences psychosis each and every time I smoke (smoked 4 times under different conditions to ensure it wasn’t something else), I can attest to the bullshittity of that statement as it applies to all sufferers.

      • asshurtmacfags | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

        Do you experience a complete loss of connection to reality? Or are you hyper-aware and subsequently freaked out by certain aspects of reality? Also, if applicable, how do you react to other drugs(specifically stimulants and psychedelics/dissociatives)? Sorry about all the questions, drug related psychosis fascinates me.

        • I know that regular use of cannabis can produce evil and vile reactions as i have witnessed this from 2 diff people (both have had bad childhoods)

      • DeepCough | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

        No. What was bullshitty is the weed you were smoking. You might want to stick to a more organic, preferably sativa strain, one that will make you relaxed. And to help you further, eat some hemp seeds to help you alleviate any “psychotic” symptoms, because hemp seeds are very rich in omega fatty acids, which are good for brain function.

        • asshurtmacfags | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

          You don’t think cannabis can cause/trigger serious mental health issues? It may be a relatively safe drug, but so is caffeine and that drug kills and triggers psychosis in thousands of individuals every year. I love the sacred plant, but we need to be honest about it’s effects to remain credible as a community.

          • DeepCough | Nov 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm |

            Considering how much private companies and the government itself have produced endless streams of propaganda for about a century over this plant, which still persist today due to an establishment that needs to find a problem in order to market a solution (as you might see in the above article), it’s really not that hard to be honest about the effects of Cannabis, especially when there is a mountainous stack of hard scientific evidence for all of its benefits, whereas the proof positive for its alleged negative effects (like schizophrenia), for some reason, is all just a puff of smoke.

          • asshurtmacfags | Nov 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |

            Do you think you might be ignoring the negatives because of how passionate you are about the plant? Sure, most cannabis studies are bogus and biased, but there are a few that illustrate the negative effects in an unbiased manner. These negative occurrences are rare, but here are a few case studies relating to psychosis, the damaging of adolescent brain development and the triggering of myocardial infarctions(heart attacks):




          • Please do not forget this is Disinfo, where we believe your sources quite possibly , are used to win an argument and thus sources referenced are there to further drug corporations that could deem the latter to be a threat to their profits. Any further arguments could only repeat the cycle of diatribe which all lay on which brand of lies you are willing to believe.

            Thank you for responding,


          • DeepCough | Nov 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm |

            While your third link is dead, to respond to your first two links, I must say, and I’m being nice here, those findings are fucking specious at best. “Psychosis” for one, is a very general “diagnosis” to make for anyone, and what’s more unscientific about it is the lack of substantial causality for such a “diagnosis.” Sure, I’ll grant there is a familiarity with the neurobiology of cannabinoids in the second article–however, there is no real comparison to any disease model being made there (in other words, since there is no standard organic aetiology for psychosis in general, particularly schizophrenia, the so-called “cannabis-psychosis link” is a most brittle chain!–I mean, c’mon, that “increase” in psychosis from “50-200%” is as alarmist as it is goddamned unfounded on ANYTHING).And as far as IQ is concerned, you can find studies that show increase as well as decrease in IQ from cannabis use (and quite frankly, IQ is a rather bullshit number). Too often do physicians and “mental health professionals” confuse correlation with causation, and too often do their methodologies fail to substantiate what they seek to find, mainly because they’re superficial hierophantic cunts about the science they are employing. Not only that, but there are also plenty of perfectly legal things that will cause psychosis, and you just so happen to be using one of them right now (I’m talking about the internet). You might also want to look into one of the 60 cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant: it is called cannabidiol, and this substance has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of psychosis; furthermore, there is a focus to make medical marijuana with no delta-9 tetrahydrocannibinol in it (and you can thank the Israelis for that, because I sure as fuck ain’t). So anyway, what was that nonsense about “negatives” you were talking about?

          • CBD actually shows to be a better treatment for people who already have psychosis because it alleviates those symptoms, not cause them to worsen or come to light.

          • I def believe that it causes serious mental issues with very reg use.

        • I’ve had seizures on pot (and only on pot) before. Overall I find it completely harmless, but anything that acts upon your brain chemistry, organic or otherwise, can potentially trigger a reaction.

          • DeepCough | Nov 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

            I find that awfully ironic since Cannabis has anti-convulsant properties (this is known commonly to stoners as “couchlock”).

          • Calypso_1 | Nov 22, 2012 at 10:10 am |

            Epilepsy presents in an extremely diversified manner dependent on causative factors and focal point of origin. Some individuals do experience relief with cannabis, others find that it induces seizures. Some people can also alleviate an oncoming seizure by smelling an orange. Others can have a seizure from the color orange.

            Your passion for weed and isolation of knowledge exclusive of broader domains in which they are contained in no way contradicts others’ personal experience or facts that you don’t wish to believe in.

            Incredible as cannabis is and what wonders it may hold as yet undiscovered, it does no service to efforts of discovery, public acceptance or true internal exploration to hold it up as a panacea.

          • DeepCough | Nov 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm |

            “I’m making an emotional appeal over a very controversial issue in order to win an argument, because it is so much easier to plead with tears than to argue with any hard facts.” See, Cal, I can that, too, and really, how can you not see the trolling, man?

          • Not all seizures are convulsive. but that is interesting… first seizure i had was also on pot, and it was not convulsive

          • DeepCough | Nov 22, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

            It’s very easy to confuse “seizure” with “tripping balls,” which I have done a lot of. In fact, my very first experience with ‘shrooms, I thought I was having a fucking seizure (I’ve had some family members diagnosed with epilepsy), but it turns out, the experience was just real fuckin’ intense. See how easy it is to be alarmist about these things?

          • Yea that’s really cool that you can dismiss other people’s experiences out of hand. I could just as easily say some nonsense about confusing seizures and tripping balls and try to convince someone on acid he was epileptic, but I’d probably come off sounding stupid at best and an asshole at worst…

          • DeepCough | Nov 23, 2012 at 2:14 am |

            Oh, so you’ll believe some random asshole who claimed he had 4–no wait, it was 5–seizures from smoking a joint? You believe that drugs are a part of the Reptilian conspiracy to keep us primate humans down as well?

          • The first time I had a seizure on pot, I lost consciousness mid-sentence, and when I came back my friend told me that I had just been convulsing in my chair. There wasn’t a lot of ambiguity to it.

            I’m not anti-pot by any means. I’m just reporting what happened to me. If it isn’t consistent with your ideology, then I’m sorry, but don’t try to tell me (or CG, or whomever) that it didn’t happen.

          • DeepCough | Nov 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

            Hey, man, I’m not saying it didn’t happen–I’m just saying it’s not consistent with recent scientific findings is all. Don’t know where you get this “ideology” from.

        • Anonydude | Nov 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

          Sorry, it was 5 times, and those episodes were all spaced out over
          considerable periods of time. Several others smoked from the same bags
          each time I smoked and experienced no ill effects themselves. My dad’s
          MJ experiences have also been unpleasant, and from him I inherited a
          predisposition to schizophrenia. Your ideological defense of MJ is
          unsurprising; most of the people I speak to with experience with the
          drug tend to take the same position, a position that can be quickly and
          easily refuted with a Google search or two and about 10 minutes. I’m a
          strong advocate of MJ legalization but to deny the growing evidence of
          the less than benign effects it can have on some individuals is
          irresponsible and insensitive.

      • bullshittity is a good word

      • I have had my daughter attacked because her boyfriend smoked it morning noon and night he was violent and all the money was spent on it, he wanted to do nothing else,what life is that?

  2. It seems to me that the people with these genetic markers may have mental illness that would otherwise draw them to cannabis or other drugs that change their mood. Then the war on drugs targets these people and victimizes them only deepening the paranoia, and increasing stress.

  3. Monkey See Monkey Do | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

    I always thought if ‘cannabis psychosis’ doesn’t happen you got ripped off with a bag of ditchweed.

  4. Ceausescu | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

    Why is psychosis so bad ? It’s like a bad trip, but worse.

    The plant is just trying to tell you that something in your life is causing you a lot of pain.

    • asshurtmacfags | Nov 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

      Psychosis is different than negative emotions/problems you’ve been putting off, it’s a total disconnection with reality. You’re describing the hyper-aware state that cannabis/psychedelics can bring which is good, this is a different beast. You should see if you can do a ride-along or shadow with your local fire department or hospital, if you’re fortuante enough to come in contact with a psychotic patient you’ll get a better understanding of how this differs from a “bad-trip”.

  5. What the fuck is “psychosis” anyway?
    It is just an arbitrarily defined political weapon used to oppress political dissidents.

    • Calypso_1 | Nov 22, 2012 at 10:29 am |

      Jobs as techs on psych wards are readily available. After a month come back and let’s talk about ‘psychosis’ & you tell me how many actual political dissidents you met*.

      *I am willing to bet you will meet any number of individuals who are actively being spied on by the CIA via nanobots in their blood or are the Secret Prince of the Republic & Shadow Eminence of the Grand Lodge of Glossolalia.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do | Nov 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

        Quite a lot of political dissidents actually…I guess it all depends on how you want to define that 😉

        My research in a psych-ward indicated the majority of psychosis sufferers were not prone to violence towards themselves or others, so then after awhile it became apparent that most patients resided there because of a failure of current societal systems to give a role, purpose or place for them. It cant be denied of course that there is a duality of structure between the individual and society with both ends of the spectrum carrying a burden of responsibility. I just think ‘psychosis’ is an over-simplistic and problematic term used to describe a very complex issue.

        In my other research I worked with indigenous communities that retained their traditional shamanistic practices (albeit syncretic) and found that occurrences of mental illness were far lower among them as opposed to indigenous communities that had abandoned shamanistic practice for the colonists religion and customs. So food for thought i guess. (Many others research shows this aswell -Levi Strauss, Mauss, Malinowski- I should have a book out on this topic soon hopefully)

      • DeepCough | Nov 23, 2012 at 2:25 am |

        Considering that the CIA has lifted people off the street just to see whether or not LSD would reveal them as Communists–I mean, hey, you never know…..

        P.S. Look up the “Martha Mitchell Effect.”

  6. Tchoutoye | Nov 22, 2012 at 3:56 am |

    1) Correlation does not imply causation. Studies have failed to consider pre-existing (“comorbid”) mental illness and the fact that people with developing psychosis self-medicate with cannabis to provide temporary relief of their mental discomfort. Cannabis use has increased dramatically over past few decades (but declined in the last decade), whereas the rate of psychosis has not increased. This suggests that a direct causal link is unlikely for all users.

    2) Lies, damned lies, and statistics. The risk of “cannabis psychosis” is very small. Which means that even when the numbers are doubled or multiplied sevenfold for people who have the genetic marker they still remain small. This is why you will never find absolute numbers in so-called scare articles. “A sevenfold increase” sounds much scarier than a 0.007 chance for heavy users with the genetic marker and a 0.002 for moderate users with the genetic marker compared to a 0.001 chance without. (These numbers are rough estimates to show the dynamics of presenting numbers. I did a long Google search on the risks of cannabis psychosis in absolute numbers but couldn’t find any.)

    3) The increase of psychosis risk related to cannabis use is still smaller than the increase related to the use of alcohol (eightfold increase in men) and various prescription drugs. If society is really so concerned with increased psychosis (as opposed to merely using it as a stick to beat on cannabis use) then it ought to address the harms of these substances, rather than repeating the risk of cannabis use over and over again.

  7. Kevin Leonard | Nov 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    Here is an interesting correlation:

    John H. Krystal is the editor of Biological Psychiatry, the journal which published the study.
    John H. Krystal also happens to hold a patent for “Dopamine and Noradrenergic Reuptake Inhibitors in Treatment of Schizophrenia – Patent # 5,447,948”

    Of course, this may mean nothing. He could be just doing his job.

  8. Curiousman | Nov 23, 2012 at 1:05 am |

    The only times I’ve had an undesirable “high” on cannabis is when I was using lithium and other drugs to combat my depression .Once I stopped using the drugs I was prescribed and only smoked pot for a while, I had actually felt alot happier than I ever have. Now I only smoke once a week and I haven’t had an issue since.

    When I was mixing cannabis with prozacs and other anti depressants I would feel like I’m choking and dying and had me feeling like shit the next day. I also have disposition for mental disease but haven’t had any issues with cannabis alone. This is only my personal(and very unscientific) experience and I doubt that this has anything to do with “psychosis” but I feel like anti depressants sometimes can do more harm than help.

  9. I will tell you I have tried many drugs including pot and every time I smoked pot it caused a psychosis reaciton for 3 hours(paranoia, voices, visual hallucinations, complete sensory confusion and synaesthesia, disorganization, and even sometimes I got catatonia.) I would smoke pot for vision quests (because it made me trip, every time).Of course I might be an extreme case. I am probably a schizophrenic gene carrier?. I am really wary of so many people promoting the idea that “reefer madness” doesn’t happen…. Ohhh yes it does.

    • Would you hurt your partner, if you felt you needed it and you did not have the money for it would you kick off?

  10. THC shrinks tumor cells and can cure cancer.

  11. When I smoke, if its a lot of pot and I am already mentally stressed, it most certainly makes me a little psychotic, but i’ve been in that state before sober, because of stress and sleep deprivation. The key seems to be how much stress I am under, my brain seems to react and divert focus from what I am really worried about to something totally fantastical, maybe as coping mechanism. I’ve never had a problem when I smoked moderate amounts pot. Peoples chemistry differ and pot is potent, so responsible smoking is called for if one is sensitive, same as with alcohol. What really makes me psychotic is horror flicks, lets ban horror flicks asap…. What I can always count on when smoking is that I am going to get real hungry and eventually fall asleep even after a psychotic episode also music sounds way better.

  12. dumbsaint | Nov 23, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

    I wouldn’t be surprised if if instead of the plant, it is tendency for some isolate themselves away with a bong somewhere that causes problems in long term users.

  13. The sharp rise in cannabis use since the 70’s, has not seen any CORRESPONDING rise in schizophrenia rates. FAIL

  14. Does Cannabis Make You Mad?

    Authoritative and in-depth information from CLEAR


  15. scooters hooters | Nov 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    moderate social use is the way forward imo

  16. SmokeWeedEveryday | Nov 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

    Weed is not bad for you.

  17. Sour Alien | Nov 30, 2012 at 7:11 pm |

    Cannabis psychosis isnt a real thing, cannabis doesnt cause schizophrenia. This is reefer madness propaganda. I acknowledge its a substance that can be abused, therefore may cause problems. But research what psychosis and schizophrenia is, because there is no association with said mental illnesses and cannabis use, even cannabis abuse.

  18. Cannabis Consultant | Oct 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm |

    The subject at hand is the “Lack of CBD” in today’s cannabis…


    Prohibition is actually causing more psychosis because of the pressures it’s put on cannabis breeders.

    Keep it Clean! 😀

Comments are closed.