NS Researcher is Connecting Cannabis and Mental Health

Phil Tibbo knows cannabis use can impact young people diagnosed with psychosis. That’s why he’s researching the effects of its use on brain health in youth and young adults.

“We know that within our early intervention services for psychosis, cannabis use is fairly high,” says Tibbo. “Unfortunately, what we see is that those individuals who are diagnosed (with psychosis) and continue with cannabis use have some very significant negative outcomes.” 

In 2017, Research Nova Scotia (RNS) matched a grant from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) that Dr. Tibbo, Professor of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University and Director of the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program, received to conduct one of the first in-depth examinations of the effects of regular cannabis use on brain health in healthy youth and young adults and those in early phase psychosis. Working with researchers at the University of Western Ontario, the dual-site study is using MRI techniques to observe participants’ brain white matter over a one-year period.

“One of the leading theories in the development of psychosis involves connectivity; this connectivity is done by brain white matter,” explains Tibbo. “So, we’re trying to see if there is a link, and if we can show that link, between cannabis use in young adulthood, its effect on brain white matter, and subsequently its effect on psychosis development.” 

In addition to supporting individuals struggling with mental illness, the results of Tibbo’s research could have important implications for teens and young adults in general. “Though this research is focused on psychosis, we’re also looking at a healthy control group,” he explains. “This will allow us to ask does cannabis use, and degrees of cannabis use, have an effect on brain white matter in the young adult population?” 

Tibbo hopes his research will help young adults make informed decisions when it comes to cannabis use. “Nova Scotia has some of the highest rates of cannabis use among youth in the country” he says, “so it’s very important that we have this information so we can deliver a public health message as we move forward within our legalization framework.”

RNS is proud to support mental health research contributing to improved health outcomes for Nova Scotians. In recognition of Bell Let’s Talk Day, Dr. Tibbo is being featured in the latest segment of #ResearchersMatter,  a campaign showcasing RNS funded researchers.


Research Nova Scotia (RNS) is a not-for-profit corporation established to facilitate research contributing to improved social and economic outcomes for Nova Scotians. RNS will enhance Nova Scotia’s research capacity and align funded research activity with provincial priorities. 


On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell will donate more towards mental health initiatives in Canada by contributing 5¢ for every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view and use of its Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.

For more information, visit: https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/