Childhood trauma may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in young cannabis users

Childhood trauma can increase young people’s chances of experiencing psychotic symptoms when using cannabis, according to a study by the University of Queensland.

UQ School of Psychology Honorary Fellow Dr. Molly Carlisle said child trauma is a major factor in cannabis use problems and psychosis in young people.

“Our study found that cannabis use is associated with more psychotic experiences, and this link is stronger for people with more experiences of childhood trauma,” said Dr. Carlisle.

“Similarly, people who have experienced more childhood trauma are more likely to engage in more harmful cannabis use.

“They also experienced more dysphoria / paranoia when using cannabis, which was also associated with psychotic experiences.

“Any history of childhood trauma should be considered as part of services to treat cannabis use problems and psychotic disorders.

The research team analyzed the responses of 2,630 young people about drug use, the history of childhood trauma, psychotic experiences and subjective effects such as euphoria, dysphoria or paranoia with cannabis use.

The questions were part of a larger randomized controlled trial led. by Professor Lean Heeds from the UQ School of Psychology.

The study tested a new web-based treatment for cannabis use and psychotic experiences in young people aged 16-25, which also looked at the role of trauma as a risk factor for psychotic experiences.

Psychotic experiences may include symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, which increase the risk of substance use, depressive or anxiety disorders, and psychotic disorders.

Participants were recruited from across Australia to study the effectiveness of the web-based early intervention program for psychosis and cannabis use.

Access to effective web-based early interventions is becoming increasingly important and can reduce the risk for young people. “

Professor Lean Heeds, UQ School of Psychology


University of Queensland

Reference in the magazine:

Carlisle, M., et al. (2021) Cannabis-induced dysphoria / paranoia mediates the link between childhood trauma and psychotic experiences in young cannabis users. Study of schizophrenia.

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