Cannabis, Suicide, and Teens

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If a teenager uses marijuana, are they more likely to have suicidal ideas? New research suggests that the two may be closely related, at least in teenagers. However, teens’ cannabis use may offer a warning sign when it comes to a teen’s mental health.

Marijuana and Suicide Among Teens

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 280,000 young adults ages 18-35 showed that using marijuana was linked to increased thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and follow-through. While the research isn’t thorough enough to establish a cause and effect of marijuana. However, it does emphasize the importance of mental health among teens. Teens with mental health disorders are more likely to try and use drugs. However, many drugs can exacerbate mental health disorders, increasing depression or anxiety, especially when a person is in withdrawal or ceasing use.

Even among teens who had not reported depressive feelings, the inclination toward suicidal behavior was high.

Paying Attention to Teens’ Drugs Use and Mental Health

“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,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D., senior author of this study, said of his research. “As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”

Among young women, the research was even more striking. Young women and teens who used cannabis at any level were more likely to have suicidal feelings. These women were more likely to be pot smokers, no matter what age they were.

Among individuals with both cannabis use disorder and major depressive episodes, the prevalence of past-year suicide plans was 52% higher for women than men.

Teens Self-Medicating With Drugs Is Common

Marijuana is known to be emotionally addictive with a few withdrawal effects; however, these effects are not strong enough to cause addiction the way opioids do. Skipping smoking a joint one day won’t cause horrible side effects like nausea, bone pain, or fevers or seizures. However, withdrawal can cause headaches and sluggishness.

However, people with substance use disorder struggle to stay sober no matter what their drug of choice. For people with a mental health disorder that has gone undiagnosed, marijuana may be a self-soothing behavior that helps with their mental health symptoms.

It is essential if a youth is experiencing a substance use disorder, they are also evaluated for mental illness. Helping them learn new coping skills can have a tremendous benefit and also help them stay sane, so therapy will always be appropriate as a start for teens who misuse drugs.