Marta Di Forti

Dr Marta Di Forti is a Clinical Reader in Psychosis Research at the Dept of Social, Developmental and Genetic Research, Institute of Psychiatry, and Honorary Consultant Adult Psychiatrist, Lambeth EI Community team, South London and Maudsley NHS foundation Trust. She leads the first Cannabis Clinic for patients with Psychotic disorders in UK. She was recently awarded the Royal College of Psychiatrist Researcher of the year prize. In 2020 she was granted a MRC Senior Research Fellowship to expand her research in the role of cannabis use in psychosis and its underlying biology. With her team she showed for the first time that use of high potency types of cannabis e.g. “skunk” carries a higher risk of psychosis than use of traditional types and that it affects rates of Psychotic disorders across Europe. Though it still remains unclear who are those cannabis use most at risk. Her future work aims to investigate the interaction between cannabis use and genes predisposing to schizophrenia, and how cannabis changes the epigenome.

The cannabis clinic for patients with psychosis

Cannabis use is one of the most preventable predictors of poor outcomes in psychosis. Over two-thirds of patients with psychotic disorders presenting to the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) are using cannabis. This group of young adults falls into the gap between adult psychiatric services and addiction.

In 2019 the Maudsley Charity funded the development of a new community service, the Cannabis Clinic for Patients with Psychosis (CCP), to provide support with reducing/stopping cannabis use for young adults with psychotic disorders under the care of SLaM.

Preliminary data from the first 30 patients completing the CCP intervention showed that 80% stopped using cannabis, and the remaining 20% reduced from daily use to once a week. Both groups experienced a significant improvement in psychotic symptoms and level of function, and over 60% returned to work or education.

Preliminary data from the CCP indicated that adapting established intervention tools used in addiction to meet the needs of young adults with psychosis can lead to a significant reduction in cannabis use within 20 weeks and consequent improvement in their clinical and functional outcomes. A clinical trial is the next step to formally test the CCP model’s efficacy and generalisability.