*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
An analysis of survey data from more than 280,000 young adults ages 18-35 showed that cannabis (marijuana) use was associated with increased risks of thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), suicide plan, and suicide attempt. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression, and the risks were greater for women than for men. The study published online in JAMA Network Open and was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of this study.
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, 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. To date, however, the relationship between trends in cannabis use and suicidality is not well understood.
The current study sought to fill this gap.
The results of the study indicated that even people who used cannabis nondaily, fewer than 300 days a year, were more likely to have suicidal ideation and to plan or attempt suicide than those who did not use the drug at all. These associations remained regardless of whether someone was also experiencing depression. Among people without a major depressive episode, about 3% of those who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared with about 7% of those with nondaily cannabis use, about 9% of those with daily cannabis use, and 14% of those with a cannabis use disorder. Among people with depression, 35% of people who did not use cannabis had suicidal ideation, compared to 44% of those with nondaily cannabis use, 53% of those who used cannabis daily, and 50% of those who had a cannabis use disorder. Similar trends existed for the associations between different levels of cannabis use and suicide plan or attempt.
Moreover, the researchers found that women who used cannabis at any level were more likely to have suicidal ideation or report a suicide plan or attempt than men with the same levels of cannabis use.