Are cannabis use disorders associated with an earlier age at onset of psychosis? A study in first episode schizophrenia

Serge Sevy, Delbert G Robinson, Barbara Napolitano, Raman C Patel, Handan Gunduz-Bruce, Rachel Miller, Joanne McCormack, Beth S Lorell, John Kane
Schizophrenia Research 2010, 120 (1-3): 101-7

INTRODUCTION: The purpose of this study is to determine if an earlier age at onset of positive symptoms in schizophrenia is associated with cannabis use disorders (CUD).

METHODS: 49 first-episode schizophrenia subjects with CUD were compared to 51 first-episode schizophrenia subjects with no substance use disorders for demographic and clinical variables. A multivariate logistic regression was performed to determine the joint relationship between variables significantly associated with CUD on univariate testing and ascertain if these variables independently predict CUD. Significance level was set at p<0.05.

RESULTS: 74% of CUD subjects had the onset of CUD before the onset of positive symptoms. Compared to non-substance abusing subjects, CUD subjects were predominantly male, younger at study entry, had an earlier age at onset of positive symptoms, less educational attainment, a lower self-socioeconomic status, better premorbid childhood social adjustment, a trend for poorer premorbid childhood academic adjustment, less motor abnormalities but more severe hallucinations and delusions. In the multivariate analysis, only male gender, worse socio-economic status, better premorbid childhood social adjustment, and more severe positive symptoms at study entry were associated with a lifetime history of CUD.

DISCUSSION: Although cannabis use precedes the onset of illness in most patients, there was no significant association between onset of illness and CUD that was not accounted for by demographic and clinical variables. Previous studies implicating CUD in the onset of schizophrenia may need to more comprehensively assess the relationship between CUD and schizophrenia, and take into account additional variables that we found associated with CUD.

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