When Asked, Teens Frequently Report Hallucinations, Paranoia or Anxiety with Marijuana Use

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH Director, Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program Boston Children's Hospital Associate Professor of Pediatrics Harvard Medical School

Dr. Levy

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH
Director, Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program
Boston Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: ​For this study we analyzed data that were collected as part of a larger survey study that recruited a sample of adolescents who were coming to the doctor’s office for routine medical care.  We asked them a lot of questions about their health, school, extracurricular activities, plans for the future, substance use patterns and problems associated with use among other things.

The main finding was that among the participants who reported marijuana use in the past year, many of them, more than 40%, said that they had experienced either an hallucination, or paranoia/anxiety related to their use.

Kids who used more frequently and those who met criteria for a substance use disorder were more likely to experience these symptoms, as were those who had symptoms of depression

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: I don’t believe anyone has systematically asked teens questions like these before, but it was surprising how commonly kids were reporting these symptoms.

​My main takeaway away is that our findings provide even more evidence that marijuana use interferes with normal brain functioning in teens.  One more reason to work to keep teens away! 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We do know that marijuana use during adolescence is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic disorder.  This study begs the question of whether experiencing hallucinations or paranoia/anxiety during marijuana use is an early warning sign for later developing a psychotic disorder.  That needs more investigation.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This is the first time the rates of otherwise healthy teens experiencing psychotic symptoms during marijuana use has ever being reported.  What we don’t know from this study is whether the continuing changes to “marijuana” that are associated with legalization – like higher potency plants, very high potency “vapes” or “dabs” and edible products – are making these symptoms more common.  That is something we should certainly be keeping an eye on.

The study was supported by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.  I have no conflicts to report.


Levy S, Weitzman ER. Acute Mental Health Symptoms in Adolescent Marijuana Users. JAMA Pediatr. Published online December 17, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3811


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