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I was using all the time : One man s experience with cannabis and psychosis

I was using all the time : One man s experience with cannabis and psychosis
Health
By the end of Grades 10 and 11, he was smoking marijuana every day, a habit that continued into his studies at the University of Ottawa.

I was using all the time and I couldnt wake up and go to class, he told CTVNews.ca. It was every day, multiple times a day, as much as I could afford to.

Hed experienced his first bout of hallucinations when he smoked a joint at age 13, what he now considers foreshadowing of later episodes. At university, mood changes and worsening depression, a condition hed already dealt with for much of his life, became confounded by other symptoms. He experienced what is known as delusions of reference, when a neutral event or coincidence is believed to have personal significance.

One time I saw a cop car across the street and immediately thought The police are coming after me. Im going to jail, he recalled, adding that he was sober at the time. (Cannabis) kind of triggered something as far as I could tell.

After a suicide attempt brought Khamis to the hospital, he received the general diagnosis of psychosis, a symptom of several mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, in which people have difficulty distinguishing between . Though much research is still needed in the area of cannabis-induced psychosis, Khamis has since stopped using the drug and works as a peer counsellor for people with psychosis. On Wednesday, he joined Dr. Robert Zipursky, a scientific adviser for the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, on CTVs Your Morning to bring awareness to the issue. Recent figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information suggest there has been a steady rise in cannabis-induced psychosis in recent years. While there is more research to be done, Zipursky said the links between cannabis and psychosis are becoming more clear.

We dont exactly know whos vulnerable. It seems like all of us are vulnerable, he said, but some people seem to be at increased risk.

Those subgroups include people with family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those who use cannabis on a daily basis, and people who use high-potency forms of cannabis. Studies have shown that cannabis use can lead to acute psychosis that may dissipate within a few weeks, he said, but those who have experienced acute psychosis are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

People who develop an acute psychosis with cannabis have about a 50 per cent chance of ending up with schizophrenia in the long run, he said on Your Morning.

Khamis, who has received varying diagnoses including schizoaffective disorder, said his health has improved greatly since adopting a self-care routine and taking medications. Hes also very much in favour of the recent legalization of recreational cannabis use in Canada.

Im fully on board. I think that having an open conversation around it where its not stigmatized is a big thing, he said. This opens up a pathway to more research.

Ilyas Khamis says he experienced cannabis-induced psychosis firsthand after developing a full-blown addiction by the time he was in university. (CTV)
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