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Br J Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;188:237-42.

Comorbid substance use and age at onset of schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, Charing Cross Campus, St Dunstan's Road, London W6 8RP, UK.



Substance use may be a risk factor for the onset of schizophrenia.


To examine the association between substance use and age at onset in substance use and age at onset in a UK, inner-city sample of people with recent-onset schizophrenia.


The study sample consisted of 152 people recruited to the West London First-Episode Schizophrenia Study. Self-reported data on drug and alcohol use, as well as information on age at onset of psychosis, were collected. Mental state, cognition (IQ, memory and executive function) and social function were also assessed.


In total, 60% of the participants were smokers, 27% reported a history of problems with alcohol use, 35% reported current substance use (not including alcohol), and 68% reported lifetime substance use (cannabis and psychostimulants were most commonly used). Cannabis use and gender had independent effects on age at onset of psychosis, after adjusting for alcohol misuse and use of other drugs.


The strong association between self-reported cannabis use and earlier onset of psychosis provides further evidence that schizophrenia may be precipitated by cannabis use and/or that the early onset of symptoms is a risk factor for cannabis use.

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