Synthetic Cannabinoid Use May Mediate Length of Psychiatric Hospital Stay

woman sitting on hospital bed
woman sitting on hospital bed
A study evaluated the impact of synthetic cannabinoid use on length of hospital admission for patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Synthetic cannabinoid use predicted shorter length of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization in patients with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders, according to the findings of a study published in Psychiatry Research.

Through a retrospective study of 324 patient records from a psychiatric hospital in Houston, Texas, researchers found that patients with psychotic disorders and comorbid use of synthetic cannabinoids may require shorter hospital stays and lower doses of antipsychotic medications. Patients selected for the study cohort were diagnosed either with bipolar disorder (n=142) or schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders (n=182). Patients who had self-reported synthetic cannabinoid use (n=162) were matched by age, race, gender, and diagnosis with patients who did not (n=162).

The study researchers found through comparative modeling that length of stay in synthetic cannabinoid-positive patients was shorter than that in synthetic cannabinoid-negative patients by a factor of 0.76 (P =.001).

In addition, for each one-unit increase in medication dose, synthetic cannabinoid-positive patients had shorter lengths of stay by a factor of 0.97 (P =.012). Therefore, synthetic cannabinoid use was both directly implicated in shorter length of stay and indirectly implicated via antipsychotic medication dose.

These effects were consistent across self-reported synthetic cannabinoid users regardless of clinical diagnosis. These findings may be useful in coordinating the care of patients with psychotic disorders and comorbid synthetic cannabinoid use.

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Although the underlying mechanisms of these results are unclear, they suggest a distinction between total psychotic relapse and psychotic episodes following synthetic cannabinoid use. Further studies are necessary to ascertain the long-term effects of synthetic cannabinoid use in patients with and without psychotic disorders.


Deng H, Mohite S, Suchting R, Nielsen D, Okusaga, O. Impact of synthetic cannabinoid use on hospital stay in patients with bipolar disorder versus schizophrenia, or other psychotic disorders. Psychiatry Res. 2018;261:248-252.