Original Webinar: Friday, June 18, 2021

Cannabis Use and Psychosis: The Chicken or the Egg

Featured expert: Dr. Marta Di Forti
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Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of later psychotic disorder. Heavy cannabis use affects the rates of psychosis; this is scientifically proven and no longer a myth. However, whether it has an impact on incidence of the disorder remains unclear. Famed cannabis researcher, Marta Di Forti explains the importance of her research for Johnny’s Ambassadors! She has published the first evidence that:

  • (2009) High potency carries more risk than use of traditional forms.
  • (2013) Those first episode psychosis patients that have used high potency cannabis experience their illness onset 6 years earlier than those who never used it.
  • (2014) Genetic variants part of the dopamine system may play a role in the individual susceptibility to the psychotogenic effect of cannabis.
  • (2015) In south London, 24% of new cases of psychotic disorders can be attributed to high potency cannabis use.
  • (2019) High potency cannabis use and daily use of cannabis impact on rates of psychotic disorders across 11 European sites, including London. This paper has already been cited 161 times and was recently quoted by the US surgeon general in his statement on the risks of cannabis use.

Learning Objectives
After this one-hour webinar, participants will understand:

  • The patterns of cannabis use with the strongest impact on the probability to suffer from a psychotic disorder.
  • The data on the role of genetic load for schizophrenia in influencing how much and what type of cannabis people use.
  • Whether differences in patterns of cannabis use contribute to variations in the expected number of people newly developing a psychotic disorder.

Speaker Bio
Dr. Marta Di Forti is regarded as one of the leading researchers in the world in the field of cannabis and psychosis. She is a Senior Lecturer at the Dept. of Social, Developmental, and Genetic Research, Institute of Psychiatry, and Honorary Consultant Adult Psychiatrist, Lambeth Community team, South London, and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The clinical population she cares for comprises young individuals suffering their first episode of psychotic disorders. Two thirds of her patient group have used cannabis before their psychotic onset. Di Forti runs the first and only Cannabis Clinic for Patients with Psychosis in UK, which started in June 2019 and was developed through a collaboration with a team of leading global experts in psychosis and a grant from the Maudsley Charitable fund. In 2020, Di Forti was awarded an MRC Senior Clinical Scientist Fellowship that will allow her to expand her research in the role of cannabis use in psychosis and its underlying biology. She showed for the first time that use of high-potency types of cannabis (e.g., “skunk”) carries a higher risk of psychosis than use of traditional types and affects rates of psychotic disorders across Europe, though it still remains unclear which cannabis users are at most risk. Her future work aims to investigate the interaction between cannabis use and genes predisposing to schizophrenia and how cannabis changes the epigenome.

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