By Kevin P. Bethel M.D.
Cannabis that contains high amounts of THC has been documented to be linked to future development of psychotic illnesses when it is consumed by children and teenagers. The human brain is still in physiological development until about the age of 20 years old. So the use of any brain chemistry-altering medication in a child is associated with potential future psychiatric illness.
The THC in cannabis has a different effect on brain development when compared to the other cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. The THC binds very strongly to the cannabinoid receptor type 1 in a very unbalanced way. The over stimulation of type 1 cannabiniod receptors in the brain is associated with many illnesses.
A recent research study published in “JAMA Pediatrics” found that more than 40% of teenagers who used cannabis to get “high” reported a bad experience of having acute psychiatric symptoms with use. The psychiatric symptoms reported from cannabis-induced euphoria were paranoid thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, and anxiety. What was more concerning was that many of the teenagers in the study reported that they had these psychotic symptoms even when the cannabis high had worn off. They also observed that 25% had depression.
The study design was meant to determine if cannabis high in teenagers could cause psychosis symptoms. The study could not conclude if the risk of future psychosis symptoms was at an increased risk because of the cannabis use. In order to determine long-term effects, we would have to follow teen cannabis users for an extended time and compare their risk with non-cannabis users.
Hopefully, now that doctors no longer risk going to jail for researching the effects of cannabis, we will soon have research to answer questions about more long-term cannabis use. In the meantime, it seems VERY WISE to NOT allow easy access of THC containing cannabis to children, much the same as we do for alcohol and other Rx medications.
At the same time, other research is showing highly beneficial use of many of the other cannabinoids found in cannabis. Ironically, some of the other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN are actually treating and controlling many of the same psychosis symptoms that could be caused by a high from THC. It is all about balance. If the cannabis has enough of the other cannabinoids like CBD to counteract the negative health side effects of the THC, then the THC can be better tolerated.
But there is much mis-information about cannabis. The main issue is that most people don’t understand the different effects of the different cannabinoids. Many people are attempting to claim that some cannabis health benefits come from the THC. The research doesn’t support this. Yet, like I said above, if the THC level is low enough and the CBD levels are high enough, it seems that a little THC will not do harm because the other cannabinoids are able to balance the negative effects of the THC.
All in all, medical cannabis is very different from recreational cannabis. The THC has recreational uses while the other non-THC cannabinoids (like CBD) have several medical indications.
If you have a medical issue that you feel medical cannabis could help with… OR… if you have had an adverse effect from recreational cannabis use, please contact me here.
Kevin P. Bethel M.D., C.M., C.M.T., F.A.A.R.M., F.I.C.T.
American Academy of Anti-Aging Regenerative Medicine
American Academy of Family Medicine
International Board of Clinical Metal Toxicology
Fellow American Board of Anti-Aging Regenerative Medicine
Fellow American Board of Integrative Cancer Therapy