Background: The associations between cannabis use and psychosis are well documented in numerous studies. There is a need to evaluate the impact of cannabis use on inpatient psychiatric utilization and outcomes.

Objectives: To evaluate the impact of cannabis use on psychiatric hospital outcomes.

Methods: This study was conducted between April 20, 2015 and October 20, 2015. All patients (n = 120) admitted to Denver Health with psychotic symptoms were administered a urine toxicology screening testing for the presence of 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH, the active metabolite of cannabis). Patients with positive tests were compared to those with negative tests on several measures, including length of stay, presence or lack of 30-day readmission, Brief Psychotic Rating Scale (BPRS) score, and use of antipsychotics and/or sedatives/anxiolytics.

Results: There were 120 patients. Twenty nine were women and 91 were men. Patients testing positive for THC-COOH had a shorter length of stay compared to patients testing negative for THC-COOH, after adjusting for age, prior psychiatric admissions, history of a psychotic-spectrum disorder, and comorbid additional substance use (p = 0.02). There were no differences in 30-day readmissions, 30-day post-discharge presentation to the Denver Health psychiatric emergency department, BPRS scores, and medication administration.

Conclusion: Patients presenting with psychotic symptoms and cannabis use require shorter inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations. This study is the first to quantify this observation and highlights the need for future clinical decision-making tools that would ideally correlate cannabis use with the degree of potential need for expensive and scarce mental health resources, such as psychiatric hospitalization.

Melanie Rylander , MD, Helena R. Winston , MD, Haley Medlin , PsyD, Madelyne Hull , MPH & Abraham Nussbaum , MD
The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Encompassing All Addictive Disorders, Volume 44, 2018 – Issue 1