Skunk and Psychosis: Does Strong Cannabis cause psychosis and what are the symptoms?
by: Eleanor Segall
It has been known for quite some time that smoking ‘Weed’, Cannabis can cause all kinds of effects. Whilst many are seen to be positive- calming you, helping you ‘chill out’ there are some more harmful and sinister effects of a particular strain of Cannabis known as ‘Skunk’.
What is ‘Skunk’?
Skunk is a high potency strain of cannabis which is known for both its strength and pungent smell. It has increased in volume on the street over the past few decades and many smoke it due to its strength. Some also smoke it unaware that its side effects are far more dangerous than conventional cannabis.
If smoked daily or regularly, the Skunk strain of cannabis can cause psychosis in the brain- meaning one may suffer from delusions, hallucinations, extreme anxiety and paranoia, sleeplessness or hear voices and become quite unwell. This is due to the high amount of chemical present in the drug- Skunk contains more THC- the main psychoactive ingredient than other types.
Hashish (which is cannabis resin) contains substantial qualities of another chemical- Cannabidol (CBD). NHS Research suggests that the CBD acts as an antidote to the THC, counteracting psychotic side effects. In Skunk strain of cannabis there is far less Cannabidol, meaning that the brain can be triggered more easily into a psychotic state. There is also research suggesting that less potent strains of cannabis, if smoked daily, can trigger mental illness although this is less known than Skunk cannabis.
The NHS have stated in their research from 2015, that ‘Skunk like cannabis increases risk of psychosis, study suggests’ (2015, NHS). They also go on to say that ‘the use of high potency cannabis was associated with a far greater increase in risk’.
Due to the increase in psychotic symptoms from those men and women regularly smoking Skunk cannabis, a medical study was undertaken in the UK. As the NHS and BBC reported,
‘The study compared cannabis use patterns among 410 people from South London who attended hospital with a first episode of psychosis and 370 people from the general public without the condition…
It found that the daily use of cannabis was associated with a greater increase in risk of psychosis and use of high potency cannabis associated with a greater increase in risk. Smoking potent cannabis was linked to 24% of new psychosis cases analysed in a study by Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience …
The research suggests the risk of psychosis is three times higher for users of potent skunk like cannabis than for non users.’
Following on from this, many former Skunk users have commented on their own psychotic symptoms after smoking it daily or regularly. It is shown that major changes in the brain occur when Skunk is smoked regularly and it can take years for people with skunk induced psychosis to recover fully. The study above was funded by the Maudsley Hospital Charitable fund and published in the medical journal ‘The British Journal of Psychiatry’.
It found that young men were more at risk- the study found most were young between 25- 30 and most were men with a high proportion of unemployment.
So what can you do if you are worried about someone you know who may be presenting with addiction to Skunk or psychotic symptoms?
Firstly, if someone is addicted to Skunk or cannabis and smoking it daily, but wants help to stop, they may need to get some support to stop smoking as much- whether that’s through a specialist Doctor or Rehab unit and initially referred through their GP.
If they are exhibiting psychotic symptoms and in a crisis situation it is key to get the local Crisis team or psychiatry involved as if they are severely unwell, they may need a short or long hospital stay.
There are many addiction charities and groups out there that can support you and the addict and these are worth exploring. If someone does not want help and you can’t convince them to stop smoking (and they aren’t psychotic), it can be difficult as you may have to wait until crisis point.
If you need to discuss these issues, do speak to Drug addiction charities, doctors/therapists or helplines and make sure you get the support you and your friend/ family member need.
Jessica at Brighton Wellness Centre is a therapist who deals with addiction issues. For more information, please do contact her via the website www.brightonwellnesscentre.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.