Marijuana and Mental Health

Marijuana and Depression
Marijuana and Suicidal Thoughts
Marijuana and Schizophrenia

Do we have your attention?

As parents and caregivers, you probably never thought you’d see marijuana associated with these mental health problems … but it is. New research is giving us better insight into the serious consequences of teen marijuana use, especially how it impacts mental health.

Today’s teens are smoking a more potent form of marijuana and starting use at increasingly younger ages during crucial brain development years. 1 There is plenty of evidence indicating the ways pot impedes, even changes, the mental health of adolescents. In fact, those changes in the brain are similar to those caused by cocaine, heroin and alcohol.2 The overall impact that pot has on the brain can have long term consequences, and it’s up to you to influence your teen’s life when it comes to drugs.

Depression

Weekly or more frequent use of marijuana can double a teen’s risk of depression and anxiety. 3 Teens who smoke marijuana when feeling depressed are also more likely to become addicted to marijuana or other illicit drugs. Eight percent of depressed teens abused or became dependent on marijuana during the year they experienced depression compared with only three percent of non-depressed teens.4

Teen girls are especially at risk. More girls than boys felt depressed in the course of a year and substance abuse can compound the problem. Daily use of marijuana among girls is associated with a fivefold increase in the odds of developing depression and anxiety.5

Suicidal Thoughts

Marijuana can also be linked to suicidal thoughts. A study based on data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that teenagers 12 to 17 who smoke marijuana weekly are three times more likely to have thoughts of committing suicide.6 The same study linked increased anxiety and panic attacks to past year marijuana use.7

Schizophrenia

Several studies have documented marijuana’s link with symptoms of schizophrenia and report that cannabis is an independent risk factor for schizophrenia. Heavy users of marijuana at age 18 increased their risk of schizophrenia later in life by six times.8

Further reports have found marijuana use increased the risk of developing schizophrenia among people with no prior history of a disorder, and that early use of marijuana (age 15 vs. age 18) increased the risk even more.9 In addition, youth with a personal or family history of schizophrenia are at an even greater risk of marijuana-induced psychosis.10

Let your teens know you don’t want them using marijuana. Their mental health may depend on it.

Marijuana and Depression

Millions of American teens report feeling hopeless and losing interest in everyday activities for weeks at a time. And many of those teens are making a bad situation worse by turning to marijuana and other illicit drugs.

Some teens use marijuana to self-medicate, wrongly believing it may alleviate these depressed feelings. Recent studies show that using marijuana can in fact worsen depression and lead to more serious mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide. Weekly or more frequent use of marijuana can double a teen's risk of depression and anxiety.11

The majority of these teens who report feeling depressed aren't getting professional help. They have not seen nor spoken to a medical doctor or other professional about their feelings.12

For parents, this means it's critical to pay closer attention to your teen's behavior and mood swings, and recognize that marijuana and other drugs could be playing a dangerous role in your child's life. Parents of teen girls should also be aware that girls are at a greater risk for depression and drug use.

If marijuana use is affecting your teen's mental health, it's time to seek help.

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1. El Sohly, M.A. University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project, 2004
2. Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know, Revised, NIDA, November 1998
3. Patton, GC et al. Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study. British Medical Journal, 325:1195-1198, 2002.
4. 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA, 2007. Table 6.36B. http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/NSDUH/2k6nsduh/tabs/Sect6peTabs36to37.pdf
5. Patton, G.Cet al. Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study. BMJ 325, 1195-1198, 2002.
6. Greenblatt, J. (1998), Adolescent self-reported behaviors and their association with marijuana use. National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1994-1996 SAMHSA
7. Ibid.
8. Andreasson, S. et al. Cannabis and schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of Swedish conscripts. Lancet, 26: 1483-1486, 1987
9. Arseneault L., et al. Causal association between cannabis and psychosis: examination of the evidence. British Journal of Psychiatry, 184: 110-117, 2004
10. van Os et al. (Dec. 2004) Prospective cohort study of cannabis use, predisposition for psychosis, and psychotic symptoms in young people, British Medical Journal, 330
11. Patton, GC et al. Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study. British Medical Journal, 325:1195-1198, 2002.
12. 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, SAMHSA, 2007. http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k6nsduh/2k6results.pdf