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Psychiatr Danub. 2019 Jun;31(Suppl 2):162-170.

Clinical Challenges in Patients with First Episode Psychosis and Cannabis Use: Mini-Review and a Case Study.

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Psychiatric Hospital "Sveti Ivan", Jankomir 11, HR-10090 Zagreb, Croatia, josefina.gerlach


The influence of cannabis use on the occurrence, clinical course and the treatment of the first psychotic episode (FEP) is well documented. However, the exact link is still not clearly established. The aim of this article is to review and report the noticed increase in the number of hospitalizations of young people with a clinical appearance of severe psychotic decompensation following cannabis consumption and to show the clinical challenges in treatment of the FEP. The case study describes the clinical course of a five selected patients with a diagnosis of the FEP and positive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) urine test who were hospitalized in a similar pattern of events. They all have a history of cannabis consumption for at least 6 years in continuity and were presented with severe psychomotor agitation, disorganisation, confusion and aggression at admission. Although the chosen drug to treat all patients was atypical antipsychotic and benzodiazepines, the course of the disorder and the clinical response to therapy were noticeably different in each patient. The clinical presentation of FEP in cannabis users can be atypical and highly unpredictable from mild psychotic symptoms to severe substance intoxication delirium. In clinical practice clinicians treating new onset psychosis need to be watchful for cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids induced psychosis. Pharmacotherapeutic interventions include prompt and adequate use of the benzodiazepine, second-generation antipsychotic, and mood-stabilizers. Further research in the pharmacotherapy of cannabis-induced psychosis is required.

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