JUN 12, 2024 4:50 PM PDT

Use of Nicotine and Cannabis Products by Young Adults Increasing Amid Mental Health Stressors

What connection does nicotine and cannabis use have on mental health stressors, including anxiety, depression, and discrimination, for young adults? This is what a recent study published in Addictive Behaviors hopes to address as a team of researchers led by Indiana University investigated how increased use of nicotine and cannabis in young adults also comes at a time when mental health stressors are also on the rise with them, as well. This study holds the potential to help researchers, medical professionals, and the public better understand the link between nicotine and cannabis use and mental health, especially with the legalization of recreational cannabis becoming more prevalent across the United States.

For the study, the researchers conducted a survey between 2019 and 2021 consisting of 2,478 young adults from Los Angeles between 18 to 29 years old with the following demographics: 57 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian, 15 percent White, 4 percent Black, and 3 percent as Multiracial. The participants were instructed to provide their mental health symptoms status (anxiety and depressions) and social stressors (discrimination), along with how much they use cannabis or nicotine, including vaping.

In the end, the researchers found a correlation between nicotine and cannabis use, along with some dual use, with higher rates of depression and anxiety with Hispanic young adults, with both Hispanic and Asian young adults having increased use of nicotine and cannabis correlating with higher rates of discrimination. For Black young adults, the researchers found increased use of nicotine products with higher anxiety while finding the opposite occurred for higher rates of depression and discrimination.

Dr. Arthur Owora, PhD, MPH, who is an associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University and a co-author on the study, said: “We expected that a higher experience of anxiety and discrimination and depression would lead to the use of the substances as a way to cope, but what we saw in the data was that actually only experience of everyday discrimination was associated with an increased likelihood of use of almost all product forms examined,” she noted. “We also saw that minority groups tend to experience a lot more mental health stressors versus non-minority groups.”

What new connections between mental health concerns and social stressors and cannabis and nicotine use will researchers make in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Addictive Behaviors, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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