African Journal of Psychiatry

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Cannabis use predicts shorter duration of untreated psychosis and lower levels of negative symptoms in first-episode psychosis: a South African study

JK Burns, K Jhazbhay, R Emsley


Objective: Cannabis use/abuse is a common co-morbid problem in patients experiencing a first episode of psychotic illness (FEP). The relationship between the clinical presentation of FEP and cannabis abuse is complex and warrants further investigation, especially within the South African context. Method: We tested associations between recent/current cannabis use and duration of untreated psychosis (DUP), age of onset (AO), PANSS-rated (Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale) positive, negative and general psychopathology symptoms and depressive symptoms (Calgary Depression Scale for Schizophrenia) in a sample of 54 patients with FEP. Results: Mean DUP was 34.4 weeks, while mean AO was 24.7 years. Co-morbid cannabis use occurred in 35% of the sample and was significantly associated with shorter DUP (Mann-Whitney U, p=0.026). While not significant, there was also a trend association between cannabis use and lower negative symptoms (Mann-Whitney U, p=0.051). Conclusion: Current/recent cannabis use was associated with clinical features of psychosis onset that previously have been associated with better outcome. Medium and long-term outcome for cannabis users however, is likely to depend on whether or not cannabis use is ongoing.

Keywords: First-episode psychosis, Cannabis; Duration of untreated psychosis; Age of onset; Symptoms
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