Childhood trauma may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in young cannabis users

Children's Health

Childhood trauma may increase the chance of young people experiencing psychotic symptoms when using cannabis, University of Queensland research has found.

UQ School of Psychology Honorary Fellow, Dr Molly Carlyle, said childhood trauma was a major factor in cannabis use problems and psychosis in young people.

“Our research found cannabis use was associated with more psychotic-like experiences, and this association was stronger for people with more experiences of childhood trauma,” Dr Carlyle said.

“Similarly, people who experienced more childhood trauma were more likely to engage in more harmful cannabis use.

“They also experienced more dysphoria/paranoia when using cannabis, which was also linked to psychotic-like experiences.

“Any history of childhood trauma should be addressed as part of treatment services for cannabis use problems and psychotic disorders.

The research team analysed responses from 2630 young people about their use of the drug, history of childhood trauma, psychotic-like experiences and subjective effects such as euphoria, dysphoria or paranoia when using cannabis.

The questions were part of a larger randomised-controlled trial led by Professor Leanne Hides from UQ’s School of Psychology.

The trial tested a new a web-based treatment for cannabis use and psychotic experiences in young people aged 16-25, which also addressed the role of trauma as a risk factor for psychotic experiences.

Psychotic experiences can include symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, which increase the risk of substance use, depressive or anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders.

Participants were recruited from across Australia to examine the efficacy of the web-based early intervention program for psychosis and cannabis use.

Access to effective web-based early interventions is increasingly important and could reduce risk in young people.”

Professor Leanne Hides, UQ’s School of Psychology

Journal reference:

Carlyle, M., et al. (2021) Cannabis-induced dysphoria/paranoia mediates the link between childhood trauma and psychotic-like experiences in young cannabis users. Schizophrenia Research. doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2021.10.011.

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