Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have found that cannabis use among young adults may be linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts.
Between 2008 and 2019, the number of adults in the US using cannabis has more than doubled from 22.6 million to 25 million. Likewise, the number of people using the plant daily or almost daily has tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million in the same time frame.
Alongside these increases in cannabis usage, however, depression has also increased, alongside rates of reported suicidal ideation as well as numbers of people who have died due to suicide. As such, researchers set out to see if there could be a link between cannabis usage and these mental health issues.
For the study, the researchers examined survey data from 281,650 young adults aged between 18 and 34. The data came from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health and was collected between 2008 and 2019. In particular, the researchers focused on daily or near-daily cannabis use within a year of filling in the survey alongside past-year suicidal ideation, plan and attempt.
In the end, they found that between 2008 -2009 and 2018-2019, the prevalence of suicidal ideation, plan and attempt increased by 1.4-1.6 times. They found that cannabis use disorder, daily cannabis use and non-daily cannabis use were linked to a higher incidence of past-year suicidal ideation, plan and attempt in both men and women.
They found however that women with past-year cannabis use disorder and a past-year major depressive event were 52% more likely than men with the same criteria to have suicidal ideation, plan and attempt.
“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,” says NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of the study.
“As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”