What is Marijuana-Induced Psychosis? Causes and Treatment

What is Marijuana-Induced Psychosis? Causes and Treatment

Published on 6/10/22

It may sound like a joke for any stoner: take a hit of cannabis and go crazy. Many pot fans have seen the cult hit "Reefer Madness," a film about marijuana that's quite different from the usual stoner comedy. This movie was partially responsible for cannabis prohibition due to its message that toking up leads to insanity. While it's true that cannabis is far safer than other legal substances, namely alcohol, and tobacco, it nevertheless comes with risks of its own. Marijuana psychosis, also known as cannabis-induced psychosis or CID, is a very real and serious condition that appears to be spreading as cannabis legalization results in more use across the nation. While the question of can marijuana cause psychosis is not totally clear, and while cannabis is capable of many positive health effects, cannabis users should understand this health condition and what it might mean for them. 

What is Psychosis?


The term psychosis is applied to any feeling where a person is disconnected from reality. Unlike the stereotypical idea of a person being fully insane and unable to communicate or take care of themselves, psychosis can be as mild and universal as simple paranoia - which just about every stoner has felt from time to time. This does not mean that toking up and fretting about a relationship means that you have marijuana-induced psychosis. Still, it reflects the challenges of diagnosis and linking cause and effect. Psychosis causes have been linked to heavy marijuana consumption (i.e., daily use of cannabis in large quantities), but this does not mean that occasional tokers have no chance of feeling these effects themselves. 

What Role Does Cannabis Play?

You may have heard that the reason we feel so creative after smoking some good bud is because the THC in cannabis creates new neural pathways in our brain. What is true for deep thoughts or artistic hobbies is true for our mental health. Cannabis can help anxiety, but can also create anxiety when there was none before through this important link. The use of cannabis can lead to stress on the brain, which in turn aggravates feelings or thoughts associated with psychosis. Pot and psychosis, as such, have a key link that may influence this mental health concern. As the rate of legalization in the U.S. has increased, so have the cases of hospitalizations for pot-related conditions: marijuana psychosis 2021 rates in the U.S. accounted for a significant portion of the nearly 500,000 emergency room visits for marijuana issues in the last year.

Since research into cannabis and mental health remains quite difficult, as researchers may be limited by access to cannabis, patients, funding, or other considerations, there are few hard conclusions to be made about this condition. Further evidence will help shape a picture of how cannabis affects mental health in both positive and negative ways.

How Do I Know if I Have Cannabis Psychosis?

Marijuana psychosis symptoms are typically intense: a disconnect from reality, delusional thoughts, inability to accept facts, negative feelings, and possibly even visual hallucinations. One key thing to note regarding marijuana and psychosis is that these symptoms are recurring or persistent. While just about everyone has felt like they are invincible once they get really high, even to the point of getting exercise early in the morning, this should wear off as the buzz does. When it is persistent, even when you are sober, it may indicate that there is a problem. If any person is having difficulties functioning - going to work or school, interacting with friends and family, or simply going to the grocery store - they may need professional help, as psychosis has advanced to the point where an individual effort can no longer control it.

What Treatment is Available for Cannabis Psychosis?


Marijuana psychosis treatment depends on the individual and their symptoms. Sometimes, it may not be necessary to do much of anything except take a break from a smoking habit and reinforce your mental health. Other times, however, professional treatment (both medical and psychiatric) may be necessary to rebuild your mind. A cannabis-induced psychosis treatment may include prescription medication, such as lithium, meant to soothe the active components of the brain that are causing dysfunction.

As with all other aspects of health, a person must understand their own limits and the effects that a substance can have on their body. Cannabis should be a fun way to enjoy life, but sometimes it can become a dependency or have other serious side effects. It is the responsibility of each individual to know when it is ok to use marijuana and when it may have consequences. 

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