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Schizophr Res. 2007 Jul;93(1-3):203-10. Epub 2007 Apr 25.

A comparison of symptoms and family history in schizophrenia with and without prior cannabis use: implications for the concept of cannabis psychosis.

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  • 1Division of Psychological Medicine, PO Box 63, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8AF, United Kingdom.



There is considerable interest in cannabis use in psychosis. It has been suggested that the chronic psychosis associated with cannabis use, is symptomatically distinct from idiopathic schizophrenia. Several studies have reported differences in psychopathology and family history in people with schizophrenia according to whether or not they were cannabis users. We set out to test the hypotheses arising from these studies that cannabis use is associated with more bizarre behaviour, more thought disorder, fewer negative symptoms including blunted affect, more delusions of reference, more paranoid delusions and a stronger family history of schizophrenia.


We used a case register that contained 757 cases of first onset schizophrenia, 182 (24%) of whom had used cannabis in the year prior to first presentation, 552 (73%) had not and 3% had missing data. We completed the OPCRIT checklist on all patients and investigated differences in the proportion of people with distractibility, bizarre behaviour, positive formal thought disorder, delusions of reference, well organised delusions, any first rank symptom, persecutory delusions, abusive/accusatory hallucinations, blunted affect, negative thought disorder, any negative symptoms (catatonia, blunted affect, negative thought disorder, or deterioration), lack of insight, suicidal ideation and a positive family history of schizophrenia, using chi square tests. Logistic regression modelling was then used to determine whether prior cannabis use affected the presence of the characteristics after controlling for age, sex and ethnicity.


There was no statistically significant effect of cannabis use on the presence of any of the above. There remained however a non-significant trend towards more insight (OR 0.65 p=0.055 for "loss of insight") and a finding of fewer abusive or accusatory hallucinations (OR 0.65 p=0.049) of borderline significance amongst the cannabis users. These were in the hypothesised direction. There was no evidence of fewer negative symptoms or greater family history amongst cannabis users.


We found few appreciable differences in symptomatology between schizophrenic patients who were or were not cannabis users. There were no differences in the proportion of people with a positive family history of schizophrenia between cannabis users and non-users. This argues against a distinct schizophrenia-like psychosis caused by cannabis.

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