Cannabis Use & Suicide in Young Adults

Jul 2021

closeup of a teen lighting a marijuana cigarette

With the growing popularity of cannabis usage throughout America as a result of the legalization of cannabis in 18 states, further research has been conducted into some of the effects of marijuana usage on people’s mental health. One such study conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that there may be an association between cannabis usage and suicidal ideation.

“Using nationally representative data, we found that trends in suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt varied by the pattern of cannabis use … among adults aged 18 to 34 years from 2008 to 2019, a time of marked increases in both cannabis use and suicidality,” the authors wrote in the study.

Key takeaways from the survey

Roughly 280,000 adults were surveyed for this study, which showed marked increases in suicidal ideation among adults who reported using cannabis on a daily basis across nearly all demographic groups and subgroups, high school students being the sole exception to the observed trend. Groups with particularly high increases included non-Hispanic Black participants and women. Even participants who said they didn’t use cannabis every day—or fewer than 300 days per year—”were more likely to have suicidal ideation and to plan or attempt suicide than those who did not use the drug at all,” the researchers found.

“From 2008 to 2019, suicidal ideation, plan, and attempt increased 40% to 60% over increases ascribed to cannabis use and a major depressive episode. Future research is needed to examine this increase in suicidality and to determine whether it is due to cannabis use or overlapping risk factors,” the research stated.

Cannabis use has increased over time

During the past decade, cannabis use among US adults has increased markedly. From 2008 to 2019, the number of adults with past-year cannabis use doubled from 22.6 million to 45.0 million. In parallel, the number of adults with cannabis use disorder (CUD) increased from 3.4 million to 4.1 million, and adults with daily or near-daily cannabis use (hereafter daily cannabis use) nearly tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million.

A  parallel increase in suicidality (ideation, plan, attempt, and death) was also noted among adults using cannabis. However, associations between cannabis use and suicidality among young adults are still poorly understood. While the study showed an association between suicidality and cannabis use, it did not show direct causation between them, leading researchers to suggest further study into the effects of cannabis.

“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 US National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow, the study’s senior author, in a statement.

Find out how a lawyer can help you

The Law Offices of Skip Simpson has the experience and knowledge to investigate the circumstances of a suicide and advise families on how to proceed during an extraordinarily difficult time. Although the law firm is based in Texas, it serves clients nationwide, so if you have suffered the loss of a loved one who was a heavy user of cannabis, contact attorney Skip Simpson today.

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