Cannabis not causing psychosis in teens

Ernie Gorrie / The Citizen
Cowichan Bay – As a former clinical supervisor in a major youth forensic psychiatric facility, I appreciated the intent of Karen Sargent’s letter on the issue of youth, mental health and cannabis. I believe however that more information would change her views and those of others regarding the Sensible BC initiative.
Sensible BC’s initiative would do nothing to change the application of cannabis laws with regard to youth. It seeks only to modify the application of the criminal law on adults. Cannabis, like alcohol, would remain a prohibited substance for youth.
Ms. Sargent expresses the opinion that “teens often have psychotic episodes from smoking pot”. This is simply incorrect. The incidence of psychosis among youth is very low and the incidence of cannabis use among youth is very high. Lifetime prevalence of use in Grade 12 students in the USA was 49 per cent in 2007 (Eaton et al., 2008), while in 2008 over 15 per cent of 12th graders reported using cannabis daily for at least a month at some point in their lives (Johnston et al., 2009). Diagnostic uncertainty is high in this population, yet despite the high cannabis usage, the incidence of schizophrenia is only one per 500-10,000 in mid-adolescents (Gearing R.E., 2008). Teens do not often develop psychosis, whether they are in the 50 per cent that have used cannabis or the 50 per cent who have not.
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