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I knew in my gut that my son Michael’s pot smoking was both symptomatic and causal regarding his mental health. We talked time and again about the damage he could be inflicting on his brain and about his doctor’s inability to treat his bipolar disorder correctly when he continued to use.

Deaf ears. No need to say more. But we have to get the word out. We have to share the facts. And the facts are now indisputable.

Marijuana, in addition to being a gateway drug (it is for most and it certainly was for Michael) has now been proven to accelerate the onset of psychosis in those whose genetic makeup predisposes them to serious mental illness.

Shouldn’t that information be enough to keep young people from experimenting?

Here are the facts:

Earlier this year a team of Spanish researchers found a strong and independent link between marijuana use and the onset of psychosis at a younger age. The possibility of chance has been factored out, as have gender and the use of other drugs. The amount of cannabis used, however, is a significant variable.

“The clinical importance of this finding is potentially high,” Dr. Ana Gonzalez-Pinto from Santiago Apostol Hospital in Vitoria,”given that cannabis use is extremely prevalent among young people.”

The researchers also discovered that “estimates of the attributable risk suggest that the use of cannabis accounts for about 10 percent of cases of psychosis.”

The findings are based on 131 patients ages 15 to 65 years who needed inpatient care for a first psychotic episode during a 2-year period. The results showed a significant gradual reduction in the age at which psychosis began that correlated with an increased dependence on cannabis. Compared with nonusers, age at onset was reduced by 7, 8.5, and 12 years among users, abusers and dependents, respectively, the researchers report.

These results “point to cannabis as a dangerous drug in young people at risk of developing psychosis,” Gonzalez-Pinto and colleagues conclude.

Spread the word. Share the facts. Save a life.

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