Liz Kirkcaldy says her grandson's marijuana use led to him being diagnosed with schizophrenia.  She says she doubts the shortcuts will work. "But will it help at least one person?  Big."

Liz Kirkcaldy says her grandson’s marijuana use led to him being diagnosed with schizophrenia. She says she doubts the shortcuts will work. “But if it helps just one person? Excellent”.

Beth LaBerge / KQED

Grandson Liz Kirkcaldy was the top student in his class and a talented jazz bassist when he started smoking cannabis. The more seriously he took the music, the more seriously he took the essence.

And the more seriously he took cannabis, the more he became paranoid, even psychotic. He began to hear voices.

“They were going to kill him and people came to eat his brain. Strange, strange things,” says Kirkcaldy. “I woke up one morning and Corey was nowhere to be found. Well, it turns out he was running around Villa Lane completely naked.”

Corey moved in with his grandmother in Napa, California for a couple of years. She thought maybe she could help. Now she says it was naive.

Corey was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Kirkcaldy blames cannabis.

“Drug use activated the psychosis, that’s what I really think,” she says.

Right, many scientific studies link marijuana use with an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. The risk is more than four times more for people who use potent marijuana daily, compared to those who never use. to study published in The Lancet Psychiatry in 2019. One study found that avoiding teen cannabis use would reduce global rates of schizophrenia. on 10%.

Doctors and lawmakers in California want cannabis manufacturers to warn consumers of this and other health risks on package labels and in advertisements, similar to cigarette requirements. They also want vendors to distribute health pamphlets to new buyers outlining the risks cannabis poses to young people, drivers, and pregnant women, especially marijuana with a high concentration of THC, the chemical that is primarily responsible for marijuana’s mental effects.

“Today’s turbocharged products amplify the harm associated with cannabis,” says Dr. Lynn Silver of Institute of Public Healthnon-profit organization sponsoring the proposed labeling law, SB 1097Cannabis Right to Information Act.

Californians voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016. Three years later, emergency room visits for cannabis-induced psychosis rose 54% statewide, from 682 to 1,053, according to public hospital data. For people who already have a psychotic disorder, cannabis can make things worse, leading to more emergency room visits, more hospitalizations, and more legal trouble. Dr. Deepak Cyril D’SouzaProfessor of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, who also works at medical advisory board for Connecticut’s medical marijuana program.

But D’Souza has great difficulty convincing his patients of danger, especially since 19 states and DC legalized recreational cannabis.

“Both my schizophrenic patients and teens are hearing very conflicting messages about it being legal; in fact, it could have medical applications,” he says. “If there is a medical application, how can we say that there is something wrong with it?”

According to him, the problem is not with legalization, but rather with the commercialization of cannabis – intensive marketing that can be aimed at attracting young people as customers for life and increase in THCwhich can often be between 20% and 35% in modern varieties.

Limiting the amount of THC in cannabis products and including health warnings on labels can help reduce the health risks associated with cannabis use, D’Souza said, just as these methods worked with cigarettes. He attributes the sharp drop in prices to warning labels, educational campaigns and marketing restrictions. smoking rates among children and adolescents in the last decade.

“We know how to send them a message,” says D’Souza. “But I don’t think we have the will or the resources yet.”

Some states, including Colorado, Oregon and New York, have dabbled in warning labeling requirements for cannabis. California’s proposed rules are modeled on Canada’s comprehensive protocols: alternating health warnings will appear on a bright yellow background, use 12-point black font, and take up a third of the front of the package. The bill proposes wording for 10 different warnings, including:

Matthew Green / KQED

Opponents of the proposed warning labels say the requirements are excessive and expensive, especially since advertising to children is already banned in California and people must be over 21 to buy.

“This bill is really duplicating and placing an unnecessary burden on the legal cannabis industry as we already have incredibly restrictive packaging and advertising requirements,” says Lindsay Robinson, chief executive California Cannabis Growers Associationwhich represents the legal marijuana business.

According to her, the state should focus more on combating the illegal cannabis market, rather than on further regulation of the legal one. Legal dispensaries are already struggling to keep up with existing regulations and taxes – the state’s 1,500 licensed retailers have created $1.3 billion in state tax revenue last year. Adding additional requirements only makes it harder for them to compete with the illegal market and increases the likelihood of them going bankrupt, she said.

“The only real option, if they do not get out of the legal system, is to completely close their business or work underground. And I don’t think the state of California, with its tax revenue, wants any of that to happen,” she says. . “The crux of the problem is that there is a huge unregulated market in the state.”

Liz Kirkcaldy holds up a photo of her grandson Corey as a child.  He started smoking cannabis in high school.  He also developed schizophrenia.

Liz Kirkcaldy holds up a photo of her grandson Corey as a child. He started smoking cannabis in high school. He also developed schizophrenia.

Beth LaBerge / KQED

Some people are skeptical that labels will work. Liz Kirkcaldy’s grandson, Corey, is now stable and lives with his father. But she’s not sure a yellow warning would have stopped him when he was a teenager.

“They just won’t pay attention to it,” she says. “But if it helps just one person? Excellent”.

Scientists still don’t know what causes schizophrenia, but they believe a variety of factors are to blame, including genetics, family history, trauma, and other factors that affect a person, such as cannabis use. Some scientists believe that having schizophrenia is what predisposes people to smoking drugs. While it’s hard to prove a direct causal relationship between cannabis use and schizophrenia, the associations are strong enough to justify action, D’Souza says, and importantly, marijuana use is one of the few risk factors that people can control.

“Not everyone who smoked cigarettes developed lung cancer, and not everyone who had lung cancer smoked cigarettes,” he says. “But I think we can all agree that one of the most preventable causes of lung cancer is cigarette smoking.”

It is high time to apply the same health education strategies to cannabis that were used to tobacco, he said.

This story comes from an NPR report partnering with CCED as well as Kaiser Health News (KHN).

Copyright 2022 KQED.

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