July 31, 2017
1 min read

Early adolescent depression increases risk for cannabis, alcohol abuse

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Isaac Rhew
Issac C. Rhew

Prevention of early adolescent depression may reduce risk for cannabis and alcohol use disorder in late adolescence, according to recent findings.

“Depression may lead to substance use as a strategy for medicating distressing affect. Indeed, many heavy cannabis and alcohol users report use as a coping strategy,” Isaac C. Rhew, PhD, MPH, of University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues wrote. “Despite this, longitudinal findings for this pathway are mixed for both cannabis and alcohol use.”

To assess effects of early adolescent depression on cannabis and alcohol use disorder in late adolescence, researchers evaluated 521 youth, aged 12 to 15 years, annually from sixth to ninth grade and again at age 18 years. In-person interviews were conducted with participants and their parents.

At age 18, 20.9% of the cohort reported past-year cannabis use disorder and 19.8% reported past-year alcohol use disorder.

One standard-deviation increase in cumulative depression during early adolescence was associated with a 50% higher risk for cannabis use disorder (PR = 1.5; 95% CI, 1.07-2.1).

Although a similar association occurred between adolescent depression and alcohol use disorder, it did not reach statistical significance (PR = 1.41; 95% CI, 0.94-2.11).

Researchers did not find differences in associations between genders.

“The findings suggest that if we can prevent or reduce chronic depression during early adolescence, we may reduce the prevalence of cannabis use disorder,” Rhew said in a press release. – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.