Weed & Teens: Depression May Result Later in Life

Man Praying Over Teenager - Addiction Hope

A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that teenage cannabis use was representative of almost a 40 percent escalation in the risk of depression and a 50 percent rise in the risk of suicidal thoughts later in adult life.

Cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug by teenagers worldwide. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis is charted as the most used illicit drug as 22.2 million reported past-month use. Furthermore, recent surveys show that the perception of risk associated with marijuana use has been steadily declining over the past decade, amid legalizations and widening medicinal and recreational use of marijuana.

Yet, the long-term effects of cannabis are still poorly understood. As marijuana continues to rise in popularity and use, it is important to understand its association with an increased risk of leading mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

The study of teenage cannabis use

Teen Blowing Out Smoke during Teenage Cannabis UseThe team of researchers from McGill University and the University of Oxford conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of carefully selected evidential data, existing since 1993, and analyzed 23,317 individuals, from 11 international studies, to determine whether the use of cannabis in young people was related to depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies in early adulthood.

This reanalysis discovered that marijuana use, prior to 18 years of age, was associated with a risk of depression 1.4 times higher than those who did not use cannabis, and risk of suicidal thoughts was 1.5 times higher in this population. Those who used marijuana as teens were also 3.46 times more likely to attempt suicide compared with those who didn’t use cannabis as adolescents.

The team unearthed a significant increase in the risk of depression and suicidal tendencies in adulthood, and not anxiety, as a result of cannabis use. Even though the risk measured at an individual-level was found to be limited, the increasing use of marijuana by the youth makes the extent of these risks much greater.

Preclinical animal studies have reported links between cannabinoid exposure in puberty and depressive symptoms in adulthood. Cannabis is understood to potentially alter the physiological neurodevelopment, the frontal cortex and limbic system of adolescent brains.

Researcher marked the population attributable risk to be around 7 percent, which construes to more than 400,000 adolescents struggling with depression possibly attributable to cannabis exposure in the U.S., 25,000 in Canada and about 60,000 cases in the U.K.

Why is this important?

Evidence and existing data strongly suggest an association between regular teenage cannabis use and diminishing academic achievements, substance use disorders, psychosis, and neuropsychological issues, greater risk of accidents and respiratory complications related to smoking. In the face of such repercussion, it is imperative to focus on better understanding the long-term repercussions of cannabis use.

“Our findings about depression and suicidality are very relevant for clinical practice and public health,” stated Professor Andrea Cipriani, NIHR Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

“Although the size of the negative effects of cannabis can vary between individual adolescents and it is not possible to predict the exact risk for each teenager, the widespread use of cannabis among the young generations makes it an important public health issue.”

Teenager Looking into the DistanceAs the risks of teen marijuana consumption largely go underestimated, this study indicates the risk of major depression, adding to the already established repercussions such as impaired attention, learning, and memory.

Researchers hope that this new study will alert the public that marijuana is not the harmless herb it is believed to be, especially when it comes to adolescents. Future public health policies must take into account these results in order to make a safer and better-informed decision for the youth.

If your teenager is engaging in marijuana use, the best time would be now to initiate the conversation of probable repercussions and get help, if need be.


1. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/legal-pot/teen-pot-smoking-raises-risk-depression-adulthood-study-finds-n971356
2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190213172307.htm
3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states

About the Author:

Sana Ahmed photoSana Ahmed is a journalist and social media savvy content writer with extensive research, print, and on-air interview skills. She has previously worked as a staff writer for a renowned rehabilitation institute, a content writer for a marketing agency, an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster.

Sana graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and Management from the London School of Economics and began a career of research and writing right after. Her recent work has largely been focused upon mental health and addiction recovery.

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Reviewed and Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 24, 2019
Published July 24, 2019, on AddictionHope.com

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