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Keywords:

  • psychosis;
  • cannabis;
  • prodromal;
  • age at onset

Dragt S, Nieman DH, Schultze-Lutter F, van der Meer F, Becker H, de Haan L, Dingemans PM, Birchwood M, Patterson P, Salokangas RKR, Heinimaa M, Heinz A, Juckel G, Graf von Reventlow H, French P, Stevens H, Ruhrmann S, Klosterkötter J, Linszen DH, on behalf of the EPOS group. Cannabis use and age at onset of symptoms in subjects at clinical high risk for psychosis.

Objective:  Numerous studies have found a robust association between cannabis use and the onset of psychosis. Nevertheless, the relationship between cannabis use and the onset of early (or, in retrospect, prodromal) symptoms of psychosis remains unclear. The study focused on investigating the relationship between cannabis use and early and high-risk symptoms in subjects at clinical high risk for psychosis.

Method:  Prospective multicenter, naturalistic field study with an 18-month follow-up period in 245 help-seeking individuals clinically at high risk. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess their cannabis use. Age at onset of high risk or certain early symptoms was assessed retrospectively with the Interview for the Retrospective Assessment of the Onset of Schizophrenia.

Results:  Younger age at onset of cannabis use or a cannabis use disorder was significantly related to younger age at onset of six symptoms (0.33 < rs < 0.83, 0.004 < P < 0.001). Onset of cannabis use preceded symptoms in most participants.

Conclusion:  Our results provide support that cannabis use plays an important role in the development of psychosis in vulnerable individuals. Cannabis use in early adolescence should be discouraged.