Patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders and substance use may have an earlier onset of illness compared to those without substance use. Most previous studies have, however, too small samples to control for confounding variables and the effect of specific types of substances. The present study aimed to examine the relationship between substance use and age at onset, in addition to the influence of possible confounders and specific substances, in a large and heterogeneous multisite sample of patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders.
The patients (N=1119) were recruited from catchment areas in Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen, Norway, diagnosed according to DSM-IV and screened for substance use history. Linear regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between substance use and age at onset of illness.
Patients with substance use (n=627) had about 3years earlier age at onset (23.0years; SD 7.1) than the abstinent group (n=492; 25.9years; SD 9.7). Only cannabis use was statistically significantly related to earlier age at onset. Gender or family history of psychosis did not influence the results.
Cannabis use is associated with 3years earlier onset of psychosis.