Cannabis, also known as marijuana, pot or weed, has a long history of human use. The use of cannabis originated in Asia around 500 BC according to The University of Sydney. In Central Asia, the hemp plant was orginally used to make clothing and paper, and its seeds were used as food. More than 4,000 years ago, Chinese farmers cultivated the plant for oil and fiber to make rope. During this time, hemp plants had very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana’s mind altering effects. Researchers explain that the THC in cannabis has increased to 60 percent as of 2022, compared to 4 percent in the mid 1990s.
Young adults ages 18 to 25 often romanticize the effects of pot. In today’s society, smoking weed is seen as normal and universities all across the globe have seen a spike in cannabis use. The National Institutes of Health claims that “Among college students, 44% reported using marijuana in the past year in 2020, compared to 38% in 2015, representing a significant increase.” Although cannabis is glamorized for its medical benefits, extensive use can lead to negative mental and physical effects.
As explained in the journal Schizophrenia Research, frequent cannabis use has also been associated with depression and/or anxiety in young people. Research suggests that smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana. According to Ohio State University, marijuana psychosis is a state of paranoid delusions, dissociation or a feeling of detachment from reality. Symptoms often include disorganized and disturbed thoughts, inappropriate emotional responses and unusual changes in behavior. It is important to note that an untreated episode of psychosis can result in structural brain damage due to neurotoxicity.
Schizophrenia Research dives further into the correlation between marijuana psychosis and college students. The developmental period that typically corresponds to the time many individuals spend in college (ages 18 to 22) is particularly relevant because this is also a period of peak risk for the development of psychosis.
In 2021, Ohio State University conducted a research study to further elucidate the correlation between psychotic episodes and cannabis. The study was composed of 1034 college students, both those who often used cannabis in their daily lives and those who had never used it. The study asked students about cannabis use, delusional ideation experiences, hallucination experiences and depression symptoms. The study concluded that “college students who use cannabis frequently may be at increased risk for a variety of mental health problems related to psychosis and depression.” Marijuana psychosis is a high risk for college students, and according to The National Institutes of Health, “Studies report up to 50% of cannabis users that have ED [Emergency Department] presentations with subsequent hospitalization for cannabis induced psychosis, will go on to develop schizophrenia.”
Nicole Giao is a sophomore majoring in international relations and minoring in French.