New study found concerning link between cannabis use and suicidality

23rd June 2021

A new American study found that cannabis use may be associated with suicidality in young adults.

According to the researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institute of Health, after having analysed the data from a survey of 280,000 young adults ages 18-35, “cannabis use was associated with increased risks of thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), a suicide plan, and suicide attempt.”

Also, the report says, the risk remained regardless of someone was experiencing depression and the risks were greater for women.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of this study, said: “While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults.

“As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”

NIH reports that the number of adults in the United States who use cannabis more than doubled from 22.6 million in 2008 to 45.0 million in 2019, and the number of daily or near-daily users almost tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million in 2019.

Over the same time span, they say, the number of adults with depression also increased, as did the number of people who reported suicidal ideation or plan or who died by suicide.

Lead author Beth Han, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from NIDA, said: “Suicide is a leading cause of death among young adults in the United States, and the findings of this study offer important information that may help us reduce this risk.

“Depression and cannabis use disorder are treatable conditions, and cannabis use can be modified.

“Through better understanding the associations of different risk factors for suicidality, we hope to offer new targets for prevention and intervention in individuals that we know may be at high risk.

“These findings also underscore the importance of tailoring interventions in a way that takes sex and gender into account.”

For their analysis, NIDA researchers examined data from the 2008-2019 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

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