Teenagers and young adults with mood disorders who use marijuana are at an increased risk of anxiety, self-harm, psychosis, suicide attempts and death.
According to a new study, this is particularly for those with bipolar disorder and depression. Overdoses, homicide, traffic accidents and suicide were the most common causes of death the study revealed.
One major contributing factor to the findings is the relatively new high potency marijuana that’s used today. Marijuana potency now is between 17 and 28 percent compared to only two percent when its widespread “recreational” use first really started in America in the 1960s.
“The perception is that marijuana is safe to use,” says study author Cynthia Fontanella, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. “But we need to educate parents and kids that there are risks involved.
“This is particularly with heavy and high potency cannabis use. Research shows cannabis use is associated with early onset of mood disorder, psychosis and anxiety disorders.
“So it can lead to the onset of severe mental illness. Clinicians need to intervene to identify and treat cannabis use disorder as well as kids with mood disorders.”
Cannabis or marijuana use disorder (also known as cannabis/marijuana addiction) is the continued use of the drug despite it being detrimental to the user and/or those around them. The user cannot seem to stop and then stay stopped.
Young people who start using cannabis before they are 18 years old are four to seven times more likely to develop a cannabis addiction than those who start as adults.
Cannabis use disorder includes:
- A higher priority given to using marijuana than to responsibilities and activities, such as college, work or parenting.
- Developing an increased tolerance so that increasingly more needs to be used to achieve the same effect.
- An overwhelming desire to take cannabis, a powerlessness over it.
- Not being able to stop for any significant time. This often involves frequently thinking obsessively about it when not using it.
- Continuing using cannabis despite its obvious harmful effects on mind and body.
- At times experiencing a physical withdrawal state.
Approximately four million people in the US matched the diagnostic criteria for cannabis addiction according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2015. Addiction experts estimate that number will have increased now.
This is because of the rise in the potency of the marijuana that’s being used. Another factor is the legalization of recreational marijuana in 15 states and medical use in 36 states.
Previous studies in adults have revealed a marked link between excessively using marijuana and suicide attempts and death. Another study of same-sex adult twins discovered that those who were marijuana dependent were nearly three times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-dependent twin.