BACKGROUND: Cannabis use has been identified as a possible risk factor for developing schizophrenia. In a previous paper we reported preliminary evidence that cannabis use increases the likelihood of psychosis-like experiences in non-clinical respondents who scored highly on a measure of schizotypy. We now present findings from pooled data from 3 new follow-up studies comprising a sample of 477 respondents, of whom 332 reported using cannabis at least once.
SAMPLING AND METHODS: As in our previous study, the psychological effects of cannabis were assessed with the Cannabis Experiences Questionnaire, from which 3 subscales can be derived; encompassing pleasurable experiences, psychosis-like experiences and after-effects. The respondents also completed the brief Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire.
RESULTS: Cannabis use was reported by 70% of the sample. Use per se was not significantly related to schizotypy. However, high scoring schizotypes were more likely to report both psychosis-like experiences and unpleasant after-effects associated with cannabis use. The pleasurable effects of cannabis use were not related to schizotypy. Exploratory factor analysis of the pooled data from this study and our previous report (providing a sample of >400 cannabis users) suggested a 3-factor solution. These were characterised as a psychotic-dysphoric index (factor 1), an expansive index (factor 2) and an intoxicated index (factor 3). Schizotypy was highly correlated with factors 1 and 3, though not with factor 2.
CONCLUSION: High scoring schizotypes who use cannabis are more likely to experience psychotic-dysphoric phenomena and intoxicating effects during and after use. Our results confirm and expand the findings reported in our previous study. They are consistent with the hypothesis that cannabis use may be a risk factor for full psychosis in this group.