Teenagers who start smoking marijuana before the age of sixteen are four times more likely to become schizophrenic. That’s the startling conclusion of some of the world’s top schizophrenia experts, whose research is featured in the new documentary The Downside of High.
The scientists’ groundbreaking work on the connection between marijuana and mental illness also reveals that, for all young adults, smoking marijuana nearly doubles the risk of developing recurring psychosis, paranoia and hallucinations – the hallmarks of schizophrenia.
The Downside of High, directed and written by Bruce Mohun, tells the stories of three young people from British Columbia who believe – along with their doctors – that their mental illness was triggered by marijuana use. All three spent months in hospital psychiatric wards, and still wage a battle with their illness. Today’s super-potent pot may be a big part of the problem. Modern growing techniques have dramatically increased the amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – ramping up the threat to the developing teenage brain.
But there’s an intriguing twist to the story: in the process of cultivating more potent strains of pot, growers have also been breeding out a little-known ingredient called cannabidiol that seems to buffer the effects of THC. So today’s high-octane pot actually contains a double-whammy – more psychosis-producing THC, and less of the protective CBD or cannabidiol.
For many people, smoking marijuana is not a big deal – it is, after all, the most widely-used illegal drug in the world. The Downside of High provides a scientific perspective on some of the little-known and little discussed risks of marijuana, particularly for teenagers.
The Downside of High is directed and written by Bruce Mohun, story-produced by Maureen Palmer, and produced by Sue Ridout for Dreamfiim Productions of Vancouver.