What Providers Need to Know to Address Cannabis in Early Psychosis Care


Up to one-third of individuals experiencing early psychosis use cannabis and one in four meet criteria for a cannabis use disorder. Cannabis use is associated with multiple devastating outcomes, including relapse, rehospitalization, increased psychotic symptoms, reduced treatment engagement and medication adherence. Cannabis is considered the most preventable cause of psychosis relapse. This presentation will disentangle some of the myths and facts of cannabis such as, “Is cannabis addictive?” and provide contextual information for how cannabis has changed since legalization of a retail market. The rationale and importance of addressing cannabis use in psychosis treatment informed by the current science will be reviewed. Best practices for cannabis assessment and consequences will be briefly described including the challenges posed by retail cannabis markets and products. Motivational enhancement therapy for cannabis misuse, an evidence-based practice, will be presented.


Presented by:

Denise Walker is a Research Professor at the University of Washington, Director of the Innovative Programs Research Group and is a licensed clinical psychologist. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of New Mexico, completed her predoctoral internship at Yale University and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington.  A main area of her research expertise is on the development and evaluation of interventions for cannabis use disorders for both adults and adolescents, utilizing brief interventions (Motivational Enhancement Therapy, MET), longer courses of treatment (MET+CBT), and aftercare. She has been involved in the development and evaluation of the Teen Marijuana Check-Up (TMCU), a school-based intervention to elicit self-referral by heavy using adolescents.  The TMCU has been the focus of five clinical trials and is identified as an “Evidence Based” intervention on the NREPP.  For the past three years, Dr. Walker has been applying her work to psychosis populations and is currently the PI of two grants focused on the adaptation of MET to address cannabis use among young adults with psychosis.



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