Is marijuana use associated with suicide in young people?

It appears the disturbing answer is a qualified, “Yes!” A recent study found that the use of marijuana (even non-daily use) in young adults, especially females, is strongly associated with an increased risk of thinking about, planning, and attempting suicide.

Healio reports, “Young adults with or without depression who used cannabis had a higher prevalence of suicidal ideation, plan and attempt,” investigators concluded.

The researchers conducted “a survey study using data from 281,650 adults aged 18 to 34 years who participated in the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, with data collection between 2008 and 2019.”

The study also revealed that “past-year cannabis use disorder, daily cannabis use, and nondaily cannabis use were associated with a higher prevalence of past-year suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt among both sexes; however, women were more affected than men.”

The researchers write:

Death by suicide is a major public health problem in the US and a leading cause of mortality among US young adults.

Among persons aged 15 to 54 years, approximately 60% of planned first suicide attempts occurred within the first year since the onset of suicidal ideation.

People with a suicide plan constitute a psychiatric emergency, because suicide plan is associated with an imminent lethal attempt and a high risk of death.

A suicide attempt history is the strongest clinical predictor of death by suicide.

They add:

Because the prevalence of CUD [cannabis use disorder] increases with time since initiation of use among young adults, our results underscore an urgent need for prevention interventions designed specifically for young people before first cannabis exposure and highlight the importance of early screening for daily cannabis use and CUD as well as CUD treatment, especially among young women.

“Studies have shown that depression is one of the strongest risk factors for suicidal ideation, plan and attempt and death by suicide,” Beth Han, MD, PhD, MPH, of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues wrote.

“Depression is associated with [cannabis use disorder] and medical and nonmedical cannabis use. Cannabis use has also been associated with suicidal ideation and attempt; in particular, frequent use is associated with suicidal ideation and attempt, and [cannabis use disorder] is associated with self-harm and death by suicide.”

The findings were published online in JAMA Network Open.


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