Cannabis induced psychosis is still thrown around in the science community without too much explanation. Contaminants in cannabis have not been explored as a root cause due to an intense focus on THC. Could some cannabis-induced psychosis cases be misdiagnosed occurrences of Mad Hatter’s Disease from mercury contamination?

Cannabis is an accumulator and soaks up minerals from the soil so toxic heavy metals are always a concern. We previously detailed how certain heavy metals can cause a cyclic vomiting sickness, in theory. However, different metals found in adulterated crops can uniquely affect each of us. Beyond cannabis, general exposure to lead or mercury from any source of contamination can cause neurological disorders, such as psychosis.

Mercury, a slow descent to madness

Mercury Contamination Cannabis psychosis

Workers, particularly hat makers, used mercury in their applications before the 19th century. Exposure to vapors from this toxic element and its derivatives previously lead to common occurrences of erethism – the iconic Mad Hatter Disease. This illness includes physiological and neurological damage. Symptoms of mercury poisoning that are synonymous with cannabis psychosis include, but are not limited to:

  • Shyness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Mental deterioration
  • Anorexia
  • Psychosis

Eerethism can also induce skin discoloration, muscle tremors, pain, and death. These effects are atypical of cannabis psychosis, although erethism symptoms depend on the specific type of mercury, dose, and duration. It can be assumed that a fatal amount of heavy metals has rarely been encountered via cannabis consumption, despite the toxins prevalence in cannabis cultivation.

In terms of heavy metals beyond mercury, the urine of schizophrenic patients is supposedly saturated with lead, chromium, and cadmium. We previously explored cadmium’s effect on the stress response and how that might cause cyclical vomiting syndrome. The exact illness that heavy metal exposure will cause likely depends on many independent factors, including fertilizers.

Cannabis Psychosis by THC, A genetic oddity

Poisons can be avoided during cannabis cultivation. High-grade cannabis from compassionate cultivators is in abundance, flower free of harmful toxins. In unusual circumstances, however, THC is a culprit for temporary paranoia for less experienced consumers. The endocannabinoid system that responds to cannabis does regulate our forget, survive, and protect mechanism. So, an inescapable sense of fear can intermittently transcend if this system is thrown off balance.

A muddling between correlation and causation occurs given that early-onset psychosis and cannabis cravings can both be symptoms of a depleted endocannabinoid system. Cannabis psychosis itself is likely related to contaminants, excluding a rare oddity in the brain. However, a question is raised considering the unicorn-like commonality of that synaptic abnormality. How serious is the issue of marijuana and psychosis in the real world beyond reefer madness scare tactics?

Verdicts, conjuring illnesses into reality

Is cannabis psychosis reefer madness or mercury contamination?

Japanese court recently accepted cannabis-induced psychosis as an excuse for sexual assault. This highly sensitive and controversial verdict would further change its tone if the accused experienced cannabis psychosis due to mercury contamination. Would blame be more justly lifted from the assaulter if it were instead handed off to an irresponsible cannabis cultivator? It’s a sound message for producers to regularly test their soil as well as every batch they grow if nothing else.

Under the watchful eye of Canada’s health authority, it seems ambitious to claim that a licensed cannabis producer can sell enough bud adulterated with heavy metals to truly poison any customer. As a precaution, Canada’s legal cannabis supply is regularly lab tested and heavy metals are restricted.

Despite similar regulations, herbal medicines contaminated with heavy metals have contributed to neurological diseases. In the event of a related case in the cannabis industry, an LP should still be held accountable if a consumer becomes poisoned by their crops due to restricted levels of any toxin.

Tested and misdiagnosed

We discussed Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome as a function of certain heavy metals and how they rapidly move through the body. This causes these toxins to be hard to pinpoint epidemiologically. The onset of psychosis is less noticeable compared to violent gastrointestinal symptoms.

Concurrently, dried cannabis that was intentionally adulterated with lead in Germany in 2006 caused symptoms strikingly similar to CHS. A medical office began offering cheap testing which allowed for widespread detection but no reports of other severe symptoms occurred in dozens of victims. Regarding misdiagnosed cases, lead can be detected for up to a month after exposure. Whereas, elemental mercury is much shorter at barely a week, and can cause more severe neurological disorders when vaporized and inhaled.

As a poison, mercury works slowly so it would be difficult to detect. No red alarms or recalls would be raised as the heavy metal-laced supply whittled down alongside the consumer’s concept of reality. Contamination regularly goes unquestioned in the face of THC’s side effects which includes mercury’s connection to psychosis. So, the hazard might just remain hidden from sight.

Poisons hidden under THC’s shadow

Cadmium and lead, but also mercury, will deplete essential metals in our body that keeps us healthy, specifically zinc and selenium. Under dietary guidance, essential minerals can be taken as supplements for detox if this occurs. Although, mercury’s relationship with cannabis psychosis is still hypothetical at this point, rarely discussed in recent reviews.

THC is always in the spotlight hogging all the attention. So, could it be possible that a lack of proof for the concept is simply due to a void in proper investigation and testing? Are cannabis-induced psychosis cases regularly misdiagnosed, having allowed the liquid-metal poltergeist to remain unseen for decades?

Let us know your thoughts on cannabis psychosis in the comments. Do you think contamination is a culprit?

Sources

  • Arinola G, Idonije B, Akinlade K, Ihenyen O. Essential trace metals and heavy metals in newly diagnosed schizophrenic patients and those on anti-psychotic medication. J Res Med Sci. 2010;15(5):245-249.
  • B. Z. Siegel, Lindley Garnier, S. M. Siegel, Mercury in Marijuana: Some of the problems arising from marijuana use might result from the intake of bioaccumulated mercury, BioScience, Volume 38, Issue 9, October 1988, Pages 619–623, https://doi.org/10.2307/1310827
  • Davis LE. Unregulated potions still cause mercury poisoning. West J Med. 2000;173(1):19. doi:10.1136/ewjm.
  • Ernst E. (2003). Serious psychiatric and neurological adverse effects of herbal medicines — a systematic review. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica108(2), 83–91. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0447.2003.00158.x
  • McPartland J.M., McKernan K.J. (2017) Contaminants of Concern in Cannabis: Microbes, Heavy Metals and Pesticides. In: Chandra S., Lata H., ElSohly M. (eds) Cannabis sativa L. – Botany and Biotechnology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-54564-6_22
  • Zwolak I. The Role of Selenium in Arsenic and Cadmium Toxicity: an Updated Review of Scientific Literature. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2020;193(1):44-63. doi:10.1007/s12011-019-01691-w

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