Early cannabis users 3 x more likely to have psychotic symptoms

New research from the University Queensland shows the links between cannabis and psychosis.

See the original  article online here on the University Of Queensland website

Researchers at UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute and School of Population Health have found young adults who use cannabis from an early age are three times more likely to suffer from psychotic symptoms.

A study of more than 3,800 21-year-olds has revealed those who use cannabis for six or more years have a greater risk of developing psychotic disorders or the isolated symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.

The study is based on a group of children born at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital during the early 1980s. They have been followed-up for almost 30 years.

“This is the most convincing evidence yet that the earlier you use cannabis, the more likely you are to have symptoms of a psychotic illness,” lead investigator Professor John McGrath said.

The research, published in the latest edition of Archives of General Psychiatry, also included the results of 228 sets of siblings.

“We were able to look at the association between early cannabis use and later psychotic symptoms in siblings. We know they have the same mother, they most likely have the same father and, because they’re close in age, they share common experiences, which allows us to get a sharper focus on the specific links between cannabis and psychosis – there is less background noise.

“Looking at siblings is a type of natural experiment – we found the same links within the siblings as we did in the entire sample. The younger you are when you started to use cannabis – the greater the risk of having psychotic symptoms at age 21. This finding makes the results even stronger,” Professor McGrath said.

“The message for teenagers is: if they choose to use cannabis they have to understand there’s a risk involved. Everyone takes risks every day – think of the sports we play or the way we drive – and people need to know that we now believe that early cannabis use is a risk for later psychotic illness.”

Schizophrenia is a serious disorder that affects about 1 in a 100 Australians, and usually first presents in young adults. This is also the time when the brain seems most vulnerable to cannabis. “

You Don’t have to be BiPolar to be a genius but it helps- NZ Herald Feb 2010

Scientists have for the first time found powerful evidence that genius may be linked with madness.Speculation that the two may be related dates back millennia, and can be found in the writings of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. Aristotle once claimed that “there is no great genius without a mixture of madness”, but the scientific evidence for an association has been weak – until now.

A study of more than 700,000 adults showed that those who scored top grades at school were four times more likely to develop bipolar disorder than those with average grades.

The link was strongest among those who studied music or literature, the two disciplines in which genius and madness are most often linked in historical records.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, with colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, affects about one per cent of the population and is characterised by swings in mood from elation (mania) to depression. During the manic phase there can be feelings of inflated self-esteem, verging on grandiosity, racing thoughts, restlessness and insomnia.

The 19th-century author Edgar Allen Poe, who is thought to have suffered from manic depression, once wrote: “Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence…”

In recent years psychoanalysts, psychiatrists and psychologists have argued that genius and madness are linked to underlying degenerative neurological disorders. The problem has been that both genius and severe mental illness are rare, and high intelligence or achievement is subjectively defined.

Claims about the link have been based on historical studies of creative individuals which are highly selective, subject to bias and rely on retrospective assessments of their mental state.

The study, led by James MacCabe, a senior lecturer in psychiatric epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, compared the final school exam grades of all Swedish pupils aged 15-16 from 1988 to 1997, with hospital records showing admissions for bipolar disorder up to age 31.

The fourfold increased risk of the condition for pupils with excellent exam results remained after researchers controlled for parental education or income. 

The findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They suggest that mania may improve intellectual and academic performance, accounting for the link with “genius”.  People with mild mania are often witty and inventive, appearing to have “enhanced access to vocabulary, memory and other cognitive resources”.

 They tend to have exaggerated emotional responses which may “facilitate their talent in art, literature or music”. In a manic state individuals have “extraordinary levels of stamina and a tireless capacity for sustained concentration”.

 You can read the entire article by Jeremy Laurence at the NZ herald site here 


CBC documentary lights up pot/Schizophrenia links

This review is of a documentary on the links with Marijuana and Hearning voices.

See the whole review on the Winnepeg Free Press website

“There’s a new, more sinister concern about cannabis. According to some scientists, it may be directly linked to mental illness, including schizophrenia, in young pot smokers.

The Downside of High
The Nature of Things

CBC’s The Nature of Things takes an unsettling look at the new evidence tonight in The Downside of High (8 p.m., CBC), an hour-long documentary written and directed by Bruce Mohun and narrated by series host David Suzuki.

The Downside of High is a particularly effective examination of its subject because it straddles the line between cold, hard scientific information and up-close human experience. As an entry point to the discussion, the film’s makers introduce us to three young British Columbians whose lives were sent careening sideways after they started experimenting with pot.

Each first tried smoking marijuana in the usual peer-group environment; each quickly got hooked on getting high; each soon developed deeply delusional behaviour — hearing voices, extreme paranoia, fear and panic — that ultimately landed them in hospital psychiatric wards for extended stays.

And each, along with the doctors who have helped them in the slow effort to rebuild their lives, is convinced that their mental illnesses were triggered by marijuana use.

That’s where the scientists come in.

The Downside of High examines the work of several researchers who have studied the link between pot and schizophrenia, beginning with a groundbreaking 1987 Swedish study that followed 50,000 young army recruits for more than 15 years and concluded that those who used marijuana during their teen years were six times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia during the next decade and a half of their lives.

Dutch researcher Dr. Jim Van Os included this study as he prepared a comprehensive overview of all the available data on the topic; his admittedly more conservative conclusion is still cause for concern.

“We found that cannabis use nearly doubles the risk of developing future psychotic states,” he explains, “be it isolated psychotic symptoms or clinical psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia.”

Van Os’s research also concluded that teens who begin using marijuana before the age of 15 may be four times as likely to develop schizophrenia.

Part of the problem, according to The Downside of High, is the fact pot growers — including the “B.C. Bud” purveyors who call Canada’s West Coast home — continue to develop new breeds of weed that are exponentially more potent than the “harmless” pot that fuelled 1960s and ’70s counterculture.

In addition to containing much higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana’s active (and sometimes psychosis-producing) agent, new strains of pot also contain much less CBD (cannabidiol), which is thought to protect pot users against the drug’s psychosis-inducing properties.

Van Os and other scientists have also found evidence that there’s a genetic link that makes some people much more likely to suffer marijuana-induced mental illness; some of the most current research is aimed at developing an accurate test that might allow parents to learn whether their teenagers are part of the high-risk group when it comes to pot and mental-health problems.”

There has been a lot of evidence also collected in NZ and Australia of a smilar nature.  So if hearing voices, stopping marijuana use may help them to abate.


The original story can be found on the NZ Herald site here

Clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge’s research found supplements helped mental health. Photo / SuppliedPeople with mental illness made “remarkable” improvements by taking a daily dose of nutritional supplements rather than conventional medicines, a trial has found.

The work by a Canterbury University clinical psychologist has shown the potential that consumption of the right micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids, could have for helping a range of mental health problems.

Many who took part in a trial with Associate Professor Julia Rucklidge showed improvements they had not shown under prescription drugs.

Dr Rucklidge said it should come as no surprise that micronutrients could affect psychiatric symptoms, as they were essential for the inner workings of the brain.

“It is possible that some individuals with mental illness either have deficiencies in nutrients or may need more for optimal brain functioning.”

Dr Rucklidge’s trial focused on sufferers of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which affects 3 to 5 per cent of adults.
In the trial, 14 adults with both ADHD and severe mood dysregulation (SMD) took a 36-ingredient micronutrient formula that consisted of mainly vitamins, minerals and amino acids, over eight weeks.

Significant improvements were found on measures of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, mood, quality of life, anxiety and stress.

“Most of the individuals were in a moderate to severe depressed state at the start of the trial,” Dr Rucklidge said..

“At the end of the eight weeks, the mean score on the depression measure fell in the normal non-depressed range, which is a fairly remarkable change in such a short time, especially as many had not experienced such improvements with other conventional treatments.

“Participants were monitored for a further two months and people who stayed on the micronutrient formula showed further improvements and the ones who came off showed regression in their symptoms.”

Dr Rucklidge said another important finding of her work was that micronutrient treatment had few side effects in comparison to many of the mood stabilisers and stimulants used in conventional treatments.

Dr Lyndy Matthews, of the College of Psychiatrists, said there was a lack of scientific evidence to show micronutrients were an effective treatment for mental illness.

But she considered it very important for people being treated for mental illness to take care of their physical health, often directing her own patients to see a dietician.

The Mental Health Foundation welcomed another approach that could help treat mental illness, “particularly one that is more than just pharmaceutical products, and that people can work with themselves”.


Drug treatments for mental illness, year ended June 2009

* Prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs: About 390,000

* Prescriptions for antidepressant drugs: About 1.23 million

Article By Jarrod Booker

Sensory Deprivation can cause Hallucinations

According to the article on the WIRED SCIENCE website, just 15 minutes of sensory deprivatiin can cause hallucinations. It is a common fact that isolation from people and life can make hearing voices worse, so I was interested to see this article. Especially when “seclusion” is often used as a form of treatment for people in mental health facilities.

The study can be found on Pubmeds site .

This easier to understand rundown is from MINDHACK site

The researchers were interested in resurrecting the somewhat uncontrolled research done in the 50s and 60s where participants were dunked into dark, silent, body temperature float tanks where they subsequently reported various unusual perceptions.

In this study the researchers screening a large number of healthy participants using a questionnaire that asks about hallucinatory experiences in everyday life. On the basis of this, they recruited two groups: one of ‘high’ hallucinators and another of ‘low’ hallucinators.

They then put the participants, one by one, in a dark anechoic chamber which shields all incoming sounds and deadens any noise made by the participant. The room had a ‘panic button’ to stop the experiment but apparently no-one needed to use it.

They asked participants to sit in the chamber for 15 minutes and then, immediately after, used a standard assessment to see whether they’d had an unusual experiences.

After a twenty minute break, they were asked again about perceptual distortions to see if there were any difference when normal sensation was restored.

Hallucinations, paranoid thoughts and low mood were reported more often after sensory deprivation for both groups but, interestingly, people already who had a tendency to have hallucinations in everyday life had a much greater level of perceptual distortion after leaving the chamber than the others.

This study complements research published in 2004 that found that visual hallucinations could be induced in healthy participants just by getting them to wear a blindfold for 96 hours.

Planet fm 104.6 Tues 19th March- Interview with Richard Bentall

Listen in tomorrow Tuesday 10th March on Planet FM104.6 in Auckland. Sheldon Brown from Framework Trust will be interviewing Professor Richard Bentall, along with Adrienne from the Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ.

His views on the treatment and diagnosis of the “Schizophrenias” are fascinating.

We will post a link to the radio  show, when it comes online on the Like Minds Like us website.

Radio Interview with Prof. Richard Bentall author of Madness Explained

Professor Richard Bentall from the University of Bangor in United Kingdom was in Wellington this week. He was interviewed on our National Radio.

Listen to the interview  here on Radio New Zealands website

He talks about the links with life experiences and trauma with hearing of voices and psychosis, and proposes the view that  Pscyhiatric labels for mental illness serve no purpose. Included is an interesting case study with one of his patients that hears voices.

If you like what you hear you may want to come along to our evening on March 19th on the North Shore Auckland to hear him in person. For more details contact the Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ at hearingvoices@woosh.co.nz

Hearing Voices? Maybe Cut back on Coffee.

Hearing Voices? Maybe Cut Back On Coffeesee full story here


 NEW YORK  — A new study by a British university links high caffeine intake with hallucinatory experiences like hearing voices and seeing things that are not there.

The study out of Durham University quizzed 219 students about their consumption of coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate. The students were then asked about hallucinatory experiences and their stress levels. These finding were published Wednesday in the academic journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The survey found that students that fell into the “high caffeine users” category – consumers of more than seven cups of coffee a day – were more likely to report seeing or hearing something that was not there.

Researchers are attributing the hallucinations to the fact that caffeine has been found to exacerbate the physiological effects of stress.

Simon Jones, lead author and a PhD student at Durham University’s Psychology Department, said in a statement: “Hallucinations are not necessarily a sign of mental illness. Most people will have had brief experiences of hearing voices when there is no one there, and around 3 percent of people regularly hear such voices. Many of these people cope well with this and live normal lives. There are, however, a number of organizations, such as the HEARING VOICES NETWORK, who can offer support and advice to those distressed by these experiences.”