A new study claims that young people within sexual minority groups are more likely to use more cannabis to manage symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In the study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the authors found that more young people in sexually diverse minority groups use cannabis as a sort of self-medication for various mental health conditions they suffer from.
The authors worked with a relatively large sample of 1,548 young people. Of the participants, 128 adolescents identified themselves as LGB adolescents. In the study, researchers examined the relationships between cannabis use, depression and anxiety symptoms at ages of 13, 15, and 17.
According to the study, LGB participants presented a substantially larger positive association between symptoms of depression at 15 years and cannabis at 17 years, meaning that depressive teens were more likely to use cannabis at an older age.
Although this association was also identified in the larger, general group, the association was reportedly five times stronger in the LGB group of the sample.
Further, an unexpected negative association was identified between anxiety symptoms at 15 years and cannabis at 17 years. This finding seemed to run counter to the perceived association between depression and later cannabis use.
The study concludes from these findings that sexual minorities present particularly large associations that may represent self-medication efforts for depressive symptoms between 15 and 17 years.
Lead researcher Kira London-Nadeau said social factors play a massive role in both cannabis use, the mental health challenges and the relationship between the two in youths.
She said: “As a teenager, you’re constantly trying to figure out your identity as a person, which in itself is pretty difficult. When you add the discovery of a minority sexual orientation to that identity development, things get even more complicated.
“Now it’s a matter of digging deeper into the why of these associations and making sure to include other communities that may be having similar experiences, including trans and non-binary teens, as well as sexually and gender diverse young adults.
“These results will be crucial for these communities, as they will allow us to better target their needs to ultimately achieve a more equitable level of parity in their health.”
Cannabis use has long had an association with increased problems with mental health, however, whether cannabis use is a precursor, or an effect, of mental health issues, remains a difficult subject. The findings of this study, at least, show that cannabis use is often used as a way of dealing with mental health conditions, such as depression, rather than a cause.