Converging lines of evidence suggest that cannabinoids can produce a full range of transient schizophrenia-like positive, negative and cognitive symptoms. Cannabinoids also produce some psychophysiological deficits also known to be present in schizophrenia. It is also clear that, in individuals with an established psychotic disorder, cannabinoids can exacerbate symptoms, trigger relapse, and have negative consequences on the course of the illness. Increasing evidence suggests that early and heavy cannabis exposure may increase the risk of developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. The relationship between cannabis exposure and schizophrenia fulfills some, but not all, of the usual criteria for causality. However, most people who use cannabis do not develop schizophrenia, and many people diagnosed with schizophrenia have never used cannabis. Therefore, it is likely that cannabis exposure is a “component cause” that interacts with other factors to “cause” schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, but is neither necessary nor sufficient to do so alone. Further work is necessary to identify the factors that underlie individual vulnerability to cannabinoid-related psychosis and to elucidate the biological mechanisms underlying this risk.
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