Bhang Psychosis in India

As we have learned in our lectures this
week, cultures tend to have illnesses or diseases that are only
prevalent in those cultures. They can be a result of ritual
practices, traditions, dietary consumption, and more. In India, Bhang
Psychosis is just that, a cultural bound disease. It is characterized
with symptoms that are similar to schizophrenia: nervousness,
paranoia, and visual hallucinations, but combined with lack of
confusion. Bhang is a form of marijuana combined with other herbs
(Indian hemp) that is used in spiritual ceremonies affiliated with
the God Shiva, destroyer of evil. Believers ingest this toxin in a
liquid and pill form to rid themselves of evil on a daily basis. If
one to two pills are taken, then the effects are mild, but three or
more can cause the Bhang Psychosis symptoms. These symptoms may
continue past the current usage and is only deciphered between
schizophrenia when the user remits from the mixture. Bhang has become
a more popular tradition in India than it was in the past in the
amounts to cause these effects.


This illness is predominantly a
cultural effect. If it were not for their practices, the drug would
not be consumed and the illness would not exist. The individual’s
need to ward of evil spirits also plays a role into how much that
person consumes. If they believe themselves to have more evil around
them than others, they consume more, causing greater effects, which
may cause long term effects and some form of dependency. I could not
find an article that spoke about the treatment for bhang psychosis,
but my guess is that since everyone to some extent partakes in the
activity, it is seen as the effects of evil leaving your body. To
some, ridding themselves of evil spirits outweighs the symptoms of
bhang. In America, taking this same or similar drugs is in some ways
culturally accepted. It becomes a religious practice for most college
students to take aderall during finals and exam weeks, and drink
alcohol in mass amounts on your 21st birthday as a right
of passage. We treat these conditions with some form of
rehabilitation and it is frowned upon in the public eye, even though
most people engage in these activities. With this information it
makes me wonder if it is truly a problem/syndrome for a country that
openly allows this for regular usage?


Salman. “Four Culture-Bound Psychiatric Syndromes in India.” 
International Journal of Social Psychiatry 34.1
(1988): 70-4. 
PsycINFO. Web. 18 July 2012.


Godlaski, Theodore M. “Shiva, Lord of Bhang.” Substance use & misuse 47.10 (2012): 1067. ProQuest
Criminal Justice; ProQuest Psychology Journals. 
Web. 18 July 2012.

1 thought on “Bhang Psychosis in India

  1. I think that if these people want to believe it is an illness then we should regard it as one. To us it would seem that these patients were just high and that it is not a real illness, but for them it is a real syndrome. The advantages of calling this an illness are that they do not have to stop or slow down their use of drugs to rid the evil spirits. I see it as sort of a vicious circle because they believe that they are inflicted with these demons that they want to rid so they ingest hallucinogens that probably cause some of these beliefs that they are somehow filled with evil and need to rid it with the pills and so on. Once they are on the pills it seems that they would get addicted as you said maybe not physically, but mentally and think that they cannot live without these pills.
    Here in the United States we would view this as sort of a drug addiction causing hallucinations which can be seen as an illness here as well. Alcoholics and drug addicts feel they need to rid themselves of pain or “evil” so they drink or get high to rid themselves of these bad feelings. Then they are addicted and the pills or alcohol can start to cause their pain. If we view alcoholism and drug addiction as illnesses here I would think that we would view Bhang Psychosis the same.

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