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Bad trip from marijuana could be sign of mental illness, research says

A new Danish study suggests that of patients hospitalized due to pot-related mental health issues, nearly 50 percent are diagnosed with bipolarism or schizophrenia later in life.

“It was very surprising,” said Marie Starzer, lead author of the study. “(These) were cases so severe you would need hospitalization or at least a visit to the psychiatric emergency room … there’s probably a lot more cases of people who get some sort of psychotic symptoms when they smoke cannabis but they pass after a couple of hours.”

Cannabis’ connection to schizophrenia is not new. In fact, over the past year, Health Canada gave $83,000 to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada to create a health-messaging website, cannabisandpsychosis.ca.

Phil Tibbo, chair of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation, suggests that many people think that because marijuana is “natural,” it’s always safe to use.

“When you talk to youth, that’s what they hear,” he said. “‘There’s no issue. It’s harmless. It’s a natural product. How can it do me any harm?’ That’s the perception of cannabis.”

And in some cases, the disruption of the endocannabinoid system that weed causes can lead to psychosis.

“Some might call it a ‘bad trip’ … which is really not what you’re supposed to expect if cannabis is a pleasurable experience,” Tibbo said. “What I’ll say to a patient in front of me is that, ‘Yes. Your friends may be smoking a lot but they’re not here. You’re here in front of me. It’s something about your brain.’”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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