Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health

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Cannabis use and family history in adolescent first episode psychosis in Durban, South Africa

Saeeda Paruk, Jonathan K Burns, Rochelle Caplan


Objectives: To investigate the clinical correlates of cannabis use in adolescents with first episode psychosis (FEP).
Methods: Inpatient psychiatric records provided demographic, lifetime cannabis use, family history of mental illness, and clinical data on 45 FEP adolescents, aged 12–18 years, admitted to a psychiatric unit in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, over a 2-year period.
Results: Thirty-one (68.8%) of the 45 FEP adolescents reported a history of lifetime cannabis use. The age of FEP presentation and pre-diagnosis symptom duration was not significantly different in cannabis users versus non cannabis users. Of the 15/43 (34.8%) FEP patients with family history of mental illness, 10 had a history of cannabis use. The 26 (57.8%) schizophrenia spectrum disorder patients did not differ significantly from the 19 (42.2%) with other psychoses in terms of cannabis use and family history of mental illness. They were, however, significantly younger at age of presentation and had a significantly longer duration of pre-diagnosis symptoms.
Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest a high prevalence of cannabis use in adolescents with FEP and highlight the public health concern of addressing substance abuse in the adolescent population.

Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health 2013, 25(1): 61–68
AJOL African Journals Online