Preventing psychosis 

It's not always possible to prevent psychosis.

For example, schizophrenia is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors you may not be able to avoid.

However, psychosis caused by taking illegal drugs can be prevented. 


Research has shown that regular cannabis users are 40% more likely to develop a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, than people who don't use the drug.

Cannabis is known to increase levels of dopamine (a chemical that helps transmit messages) in your brain. Therefore, long-term cannabis use may cause permanent changes in your brain's chemistry that could lead to psychosis.

People who regularly use "skunk" (the herbal type of cannabis specifically grown for its increased strength) are thought to be most at risk.

You should also avoid using other recreational drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy, because they also increase your risk of developing psychosis.

Read more about the effects of drugs.

Stress and depression

Experiencing prolonged bouts of stress can sometimes trigger an episode of depression. Both stress and depression are major risk factors for psychosis.

The advice below may help reduce your stress levels, preventing depression and subsequent psychotic episodes: 

  • Use a problem-solving approach to deal with stress and worries.
  • Try to identify negative thoughts and change them to positive ones. 
  • Assess your symptoms regularly and speak to your GP or counsellor if problems arise.
  • Take regular exercise. Exercise triggers the release of a mood-boosting brain chemical called serotonin.
  • Learn how to relax using relaxation exercises and tapes.
  • Activities such as yoga and meditation can reduce stress levels. Having a massage can also help relieve tension and anxiety.
  • Join a self-help group to discuss your feelings and concerns. This can help you feel less isolated.
  • Avoid smoking, taking illegal drugs and drinking alcohol. These substances may make you feel better in the short term, but they'll usually make you feel worse in the long term.

Video: saying no to drugs

Would you say no to drugs? Find out what choices teenagers Taz and Mike made, and how their lives were affected.

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Page last reviewed: 31/07/2014

Next review due: 30/11/2016