The impact of cannabis use on age of onset and clinical characteristics in first-episode psychotic patients. Data from the Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS)

Sarah Tosato, Antonio Lasalvia, Chiara Bonetto, Rodolfo Mazzoncini, Doriana Cristofalo, Katia De Santi, Mariaelena Bertani, Sarah Bissoli, Lorenza Lazzarotto, Giovanna Marrella, Dario Lamonaca, Rosanna Riolo, Francesco Gardellin, Anna Urbani, Michele Tansella, Mirella Ruggeri
Journal of Psychiatric Research 2013, 47 (4): 438-44
Cannabis use is frequent among first-episode psychosis (FEP) patients and has been associated with several clinical features. This study aimed in an FEP sample to determine whether cannabis use is associated with (1) a higher level of positive symptoms, a lower level of depression and a better premorbid adjustment, (2) an earlier age of onset, and a better premorbid IQ. The study was conducted within the framework of the Psychosis Incident Cohort Outcome Study (PICOS), a multisite collaborative research on FEP patients who attended the psychiatric services in Veneto Region, Italy. Standardized instruments were used to collect sociodemographic, clinical, and drug use data. A total of 555 FEP patients met the inclusion criteria, 517 of whom received an ICD-10 diagnosis of psychosis; 397 (55% males; mean age: 32 yrs ± 9.5) were assessed. Out of these, 311 patients agreed to be interviewed on drug and alcohol misuse; 20.3% was positive for drug misuse: cannabis (19.0%), cocaine (3.9%), and hallucinogens (3.9%). Cannabis use was not associated with a higher level of positive symptoms, but correlated with less severe depressive symptoms. No relationship was observed between premorbid adjustment or IQ and cannabis use. FEP patients who used cannabis had an earlier age of onset than abstinent patients, even after adjusting for gender and diagnosis. Our results suggest a possible causal role of cannabis in triggering psychosis in certain vulnerable subjects. Particular attention must be paid to this behaviour, because reducing cannabis use can delay or prevent some cases of psychosis.

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