Background. The aims of this research were to use data gathered over the course of a 21 year longitudinal study to examine the linkages between cannabis dependence at ages 18 and 21 and rates of psychotic symptoms taking into account previous symptom levels and other confounding factors.
Method. Data were gathered during the course of the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS). The CHDS is a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children who have been studied from birth to age 21. As part of this study, data were gathered on cannabis dependence and psychotic symptoms at ages 18 and 21.
Results. Young people meeting DSM-IV criteria for cannabis dependence had elevated rates of psychotic symptoms at ages 18 (rate ratio = 3.7; 95% CI 2.8–5.0; P<0.0001) and 21 (rate ratio = 2.3; 95% CI 1.7–3.2; P<0.0001). These associations were adjusted for previous psychotic symptoms and a range of other confounding factors using a generalized estimating equation model. This analysis showed that after adjustment for confounding factors, those meeting criteria for cannabis dependence still had an increased rate of psychotic symptoms (rate ratio = 1.8; 95% CI 1.2–2.6; P<0.005).
Conclusions. The results show that the development of cannabis dependence is associated with increased rates of psychotic symptoms in young people even when pre-existing symptoms and other background factors are taken into account.
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