Marijuana and Madness: The Etiology, Evolution, and Clinical Expression of Psychoses
Throughout the world, cannabis is the most widely consumed illicit drug (EMCDDA, 2008). Dramatic increases in cannabis consumption have been observed in the last 30 years, possibly due to increased social acceptance and legalization in some areas (UNODC, 2012). There has also been a substantial decline in the initial age of use, with overall use remaining primarily linked to youth between the ages of 15 and 25. In 2012, the yearly prevalence of cannabis use among the general population was approximately 5% (UNODC, 2012). However, rates among people with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, remain consistently 5-10 times higher than the normal population, and the reason for this is unknown (Degenhardt, Hall & Linskey, 2003).
Developed countries are the main consumers of cannabis (see Figure 1). According to the Canadian Addiction Survey (2004), almost half the population (44.5%) has used cannabis in their lifetime and the rate in Quebec (46.4), is slightly higher than the national average. Assuming that prevalence rates will not change significantly over the next few decades, demographic trends suggest that the total number of cannabis users could, in accordance with population growth, increase significantly. Given its prevalence, there is little wonder why cannabis has become so controversial, dividing opinion among policymakers, researchers, law enforcers, and consumers alike (UNODC, 2012).
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Kaitlyn is pursuing her M.Sc. degree at McGill University. Her research project focuses on delineating the underlying neurobiology of risk-taking behaviours in driving while impaired (DWI) by alcohol offenders. Ultimately, she hopes to work as a neurologist specializing in addictions.