February 13, 2019
2 min read

Teen cannabis use may lead to depression, suicidality later

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Adolescent cannabis use was associated with increased risk for depression and suicidal behavior later in life, results from a meta-analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed.

“Little attention has been specifically paid in the public health discourse as to the impact of adolescent cannabis use on the risk of developing depressive symptoms and mood disorders, even though researchers have published on this topic since the 1970s,” Gabriella Gobbi, MD, PhD, department of psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, and colleagues wrote. “The adolescent brain is indeed still under development and psychotropic drugs used at this time may thus alter the physiological neurodevelopment, especially of the frontal cortex and limbic system.”

Researchers examined the extent to which cannabis exposure during adolescence was linked to the risk for major depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior later.

In the systematic review, they searched online data bases for longitudinal and prospective studies that featured cannabis use in those younger than 18 years. Studies that evaluated cannabis use and depression, anxiety and/or suicidality at different points from adolescence to young adulthood (age 18 to 32 years) and reported the corresponding ORs were also included.

Overall, 11 studies comprising 23,317 people were included in meta-analysis.

Adolescent cannabis use was associated with increased risk for depression and suicidal behavior later in life, according to study results.
Source: Shutterstock.com

The results revealed that adolescent cannabis users were more likely to develop depression in young adulthood compared with nonusers (pooled OR = 1.37; 95% CI, 1.16-1.62). Cannabis users were also more likely to have suicidal ideation (pooled OR = 1.5; 95% CI, 1.11-2.03) and attempt suicide (pooled OR = 3.46; 95% CI, 1.53-7.84) later in life than nonusers. However, there was no significant association with anxiety (pooled OR = 1.18; 95% CI, 0.84-1.67).

Gobbi and colleagues also reported evidence that cannabis users aged 14 to 15 years were at significantly higher risk for suicidal behaviors, while the overall association between cannabis use and depression did not vary with age. In addition, evidence showed that girls may be more susceptible to adult depression than boys if they smoked cannabis in adolescence, according to the results.

“These findings highlight the importance of initiatives aiming to educate teenagers on the risks associated with using cannabis and teach them skills to resist peer pressure,” the investigators concluded. – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: Gobbi reports receiving a grant from the Quebec Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation with the participation of Aurora Cannabis Inc. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.