Study: Cannabis Use, Polysubstance Use, and Psychosis Spectrum Symptoms in a Community-Based Sample of U.S. Youth

Article by Jason D. Jones, Ph.D., Monica E. Calkins, Ph.D., J. Cobb Scott, Ph.D, Emily C. Bach, Raquel E. Gur, M.D., Ph.D., Journal of Adolescent Health

Cannabis Use, Polysubstance Use, and Psychosis Spectrum Symptoms in a Community-Based Sample of U.S. Youth

Purpose

To examine how cannabis use and polysubstance use among cannabis users relate to psychosis spectrum (PS) symptoms in a large community-based sample of U.S. youth.

Methods

Four thousand one hundred seventy-one youths (aged 14–21 years; mean = 16.90 years, SD = 1.85; 55% female) from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort completed assessments of substance use, PS symptoms, and confounding variables (e.g., demographics, comorbid psychopathology, and trauma exposure).

Results

After adjusting for confounds, cannabis use by itself was not associated with increased odds of being classified as “psychosis spectrum.” However, cannabis use in combination with tobacco or other substance use was associated with increased odds of PS classification (adjusted odds ratios [ORs] = 1.37–1.76). Follow-up symptom-level analyses revealed that cannabis use in combination with other substances was associated with subclinical positive symptoms (ORs = 1.95 and 2.24) and frequent cannabis use was associated with subclinical negative/disorganized symptoms (OR = 2.14). However, these symptom-level findings were reduced to trends after correction for multiple comparisons. Neither cannabis use nor polysubstance use was associated with threshold delusions or hallucinations.

Conclusions

After adjusting for important confounds, there was minimal evidence for associations between cannabis use by itself and PS symptoms. More compelling evidence emerged for associations between polysubstance use among cannabis users and PS symptoms. This study highlights the importance of considering polysubstance use and confounds when examining associations between cannabis use and PS symptoms. Further longitudinal research is necessary to determine whether these findings represent causal associations or shared genetic and/or environmental vulnerability for substance use and PS symptoms.

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