Cannabis Use Grows Faster Among Depressed Americans: Latest Study
according to Reuters Health, regular cannabis use increases faster among people with depression and they are less likely to perceive it as risky compared to people who are not depressed, suggests a new American study.
New research suggests that people with depression are about twice as likely to use cannabis as people who don't experience it. A study by scientists from the universities of North Carolina and New York.
The researchers examined data collected from a total of nearly 729000 people aged 12 and over between 2005 and 2017, including any cannabis use in the previous month and any depression experienced in the previous year.
In the last year of the study, about 19% of people with depression reported at least some use of cannabis, compared to 8,7% of people with no recent history of depression. In 2005, approximately 10,2% of people with depression and 5,7% of people without depression used the drug.
The proportion of depressed people who perceived cannabis use as risky behavior also fell from 41% to 17% during the study period, compared with a drop from 52% to 33% among those without depression, according to the review report Addiction.
"This perception of risk decreases faster in people with depression," said Renee Goodwin of Columbia University in New York, the study's lead author.
"People with depression who perceive little or no risk associated with use have a much higher prevalence of cannabis use, compared to those who perceive higher associated risks," said Goodwin by email.
The study found that current cannabis use was highest among people aged 18 to 25 with depression, at almost 30%. The use was also common among depressed people, men, blacks or singles, around 23% for each group.
One of the limitations of the study is that the researchers relied on the study participants to truthfully report any use of cannabis or symptoms of depression; they did not have laboratory tests for drug use or medical records to confirm a mental health diagnosis.
The researchers were also unable to explain whether the legalization of cannabis could have had an impact on the proportion of people who used the drug or on the way participants thought about its safety, notes the study team.
"Some people think that using drugs is a form of self-medication for depression or an attempt to self-treat depressive symptoms," said Goodwin.
During the study period, most states in the United States legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes, or both, and it is also possible that this may have helped reduce the perception of risk, added Goodwin .
"There is anecdotal evidence that some people perceive cannabis as less risky than psychiatric drugs and with legalization, (cannabis) may be cheaper and more available and associated with less stigma," said Goodwin.
However, people need to understand that cannabis can actually be more risky for people with depression.
"There is no evidence to suggest that cannabis use will alleviate symptoms of depression, except temporarily, and there is data suggesting that cannabis use may worsen or prolong depression," said Goodwin. "Historically, patients in treatment / recovery from depression are advised to avoid cannabis use."
According to Reuters, the study was not designed to determine whether depression could influence the frequency with which people use cannabis, or whether there is a risk of regular use of this herb.