Study: Cannabis Use Associated With Lower Mortality Risk In Patients With Psychotic Disorders

Baltimore,  MD:  The use of cannabis is  associated with lower mortality risk in patients with schizophrenia and related  psychotic disorders, according to a forthcoming studyto be published in the  Journal of Psychiatric Research.

An international team of investigators  from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Inje University in South  Korea assessed the impact of a lifetime history substance use on mortality in  762 subjects with schizophrenia or related disorders.

Researchers reported, “[W]e observed a  lower mortality risk-adjusted variable in cannabis-users compared to cannabis  non-users despite subjects having similar symptoms and antipsychotic  treatments.”

Authors speculated that the association  between marijuana use and decreased mortality risk may be because “cannabis  users may (be) higher functioning” and because “cannabis itself may have some  health benefits.”

They concluded:  “To our knowledge, this is one of the first  studies to examine the risk of mortality with cannabis and alcohol in people  with PD (psychotic disorders).  This  interesting finding of decreased mortality risk … in cannabis users is a novel  finding and one that will need replication in larger epidemiological studies.”

NORML Board Member Dr. Lester Grinspoon,  psychiatrist and former Harvard Medical School professor, similarly noted that  the study’s findings, though promising, require replication in separate  trials.  “In reading  the cannabis literature over the years, I have learned to be somewhat skeptical  about any single report and to maintain a ‘wait and see’ posture as new data  eventually flesh out the reality,” he said.

To date the association between cannabis  use and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia is not well understood.  While some studies have associated cannabis  use with higher cognitive functioning – including better performance on  measures of processing speed and verbal skills – other research has implied  that cannabis use, particularly heavy use at an early age, may precipitate or  exacerbate the disease in those already vulnerable to it. Other experts have  criticized this purported link to be “overstated” and not “particularly  compelling,” noting that increased levels of cannabis use by the general public  has not yet been positively associated with proportionally rising incidences of  schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.

For  more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at:  Full text of the study, “Alcohol and cannabis use and mortality in people with schizophrenia and  related psychotic disorders,” will appear in the Journal of  Psychiatric Research. For additional  information on cannabis use and mental illness, please see the NORML white  paper, “Cannabis, Mental Health, and Context,” available online at:

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