A Retrospective Study of the Clinical Characteristics Associated with Alcohol and Cannabis use in Early Phase Psychosis



Alcohol and cannabis misuse are common in patients with early phase psychosis (EPP); however, research has tended to focus primarily on cannabis misuse and EPP outcomes, with a relative lack of data on alcohol misuse. This retrospective cross-sectional EPP study investigated the relationship between cannabis, alcohol, and cannabis combined with alcohol misuse, on age, gender, psychotic, depressive and anxiety symptom severity, and social/occupational functioning, at entry to service.


Two-hundred and sixty-four EPP patients were divided into 4 groups based on substance use measured by the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test: (1) no to low-level cannabis and alcohol misuse (LU), (2) moderate to high alcohol misuse only (AU), (3) moderate to high cannabis misuse only (CU), and (4) moderate to high alcohol and cannabis misuse (AU + CU).


We found significant between group differences in age (with the AU group being the oldest and AU + CU group the youngest) as well as gender (with the CU group having the highest percentage of men). There were also group differences in positive psychotic symptoms (lowest in AU group), trait anxiety (highest in AU + CU group), and social/occupational functioning (highest in AU group). Further regression analyses revealed a particularly strong relationship between AU + CU group and trait anxiety (3-fold increased odds of clinical trait anxiety for combined misuse of alcohol and cannabis compared to non/low users).


This study demonstrates the unique demographic and clinical characteristics found in the EPP population at entry to care associated with alcohol and cannabis misuse both separately and in combination. This work highlights the importance of including the assessment of alcohol misuse in addition to cannabis misuse in future treatment guidelines and research.

Authors: Cookey J, McGavin, Crocker CE, Matheson K, Stewart SH, Tibbo PG
; Full Source: Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020 Feb 4:706743720905201. doi: 10.1177/0706743720905201. [Epub ahead of print]