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article imageNew Report Shows Teens Smoking Pot Worsens Depression And Other Mental Illnesses

By Susan Duclos     May 11, 2008 in Health
A new report analyzing approximately a dozen studies about marijuana use and mental health shows increased depression in teens that smoke marijuana, and also concludes there is a higher risk of schizophrenia, anxiety and suicide.
The report, (8 page PDF file) issued by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, analyzes multiple studies which show that millions of American teens report experiencing weeks of hopelessness and loss of interest in normal daily activities and many of these depressed teens are using marijuana and other drugs, making their situation worse.
Instead of the self medicating the teens are doing by using marijuana to help fight their depression, they are increasing their depression as well as increasing the risk of other severe mental issues such as schizophrenia, anxiety and suicide.
The title of the report is, "Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression", and the sub header for the report is, "An Analysis of Recent Data Shows “Self-Medicating” Could Actually Make Things Worse."
According to the report, weekly or more frequent use of marijuana doubles a teen’s risk of depression and anxiety. Depressed teens are more than twice as likely as their peers to abuse or become dependent on marijuana.
Page three of the report, the Executive Summary, shows eight key findings after analyzing multiple other studies and data which are:
**Two million teens report feelings of depression and loss of interest in daily activities during the past year.
**Depressed teens are twice as likely as non-depressed teens to use marijuana and other illicit drugs.
**Depressed teens are more than twice as likely as their peers to abuseor become dependent on marijuana.
**Using marijuana can cause depression and other mental illnesses.
**Marijuana use can worsen depression and lead to more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide.
**Teens who smoke marijuana at least once a month are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users.
**The percentage of depressed teens is equal to the percentage of depressed adults, but depressed teens are more likely than depressed adults to use marijuana and other drugs.
**Teen girls who use marijuana daily are more likely than girls who do not use marijuana to develop depression.
Recent national surveys showed that 8 percent of youths, approximately two million, felt depressed at some point in the course of a year and that number rose to 29 percent for high school students.
Indicators show that those teens are trying to relieve the stress and anxiety by using drugs to alleviate the symptoms saying they "make the feel good" or "feel better" with the self medicating.
However, research shows that using marijuana and other illicit drugs puts a teen at even greater risk for more serious mental illnesses. A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana (25%) as teens who have not reported being depressed (12%). Similarly, 35 percent of depressed teens used an illicit drug (including marijuana) during the year, compared to 18 percent of teens who did not report being depressed.
Source for that particular study found here.
Furthermore, the study shows that not only does marijuana make depression worse for the teenagers that are self-medicating; cannabis smoking itself may be a causal agent in psychiatric symptoms, particularly schizophrenia.
In other words, it doesn't just worsen or increase the risk of existing problems, it can actually cause certain conditions.
According to this report, teenagers that smoke pot at least once a month are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users during the same period.
Another study this report speaks about shows that marijuana use was directly associated with depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.
One study was conducted over a 16-year time frame and found that individuals who were not depressed and then used marijuana were four times more likely to be depressed at follow up.
A different study conducted over a 14-year period found that marijuana use was a predictor of later major depressive disorder.
An extensive analysis of longitudinal studies on marijuana use and risk of mental illness later in life showed that marijuana use increases the risk of developing mental disorders by 40 percent. The risk of psychosis increases with frequency of marijuana use, from 50 to 200 percent among frequent users.
The authors end up concluding that “there is now sufficient evidence to warn young people that using cannabis could increase their risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life.”
Depression and suicidal thoughts are not the only conclusions this report covers and they mention a New Zealand study which showed, “a clear increase in rates of psychotic symptoms after the start of regular use” of marijuana."
This recent study also points to a study conducted over a 21 year period which gave evidence that marijuana use was associated with psychotic symptoms and suggested a causal relationship.
A study published in Schizophrenia Research found that cannabis use seems to be a
specific risk factor for future psychotic symptoms.
According to Dr. Drew Pinksy, internist, addiction expert, and host of VH1's Celebrity Rehab, "Don't be fooled into thinking that pot is harmless. Marijuana is an addictive drug. Teens who are already depressed and use marijuana may increase their odds of suffering from even more serious mental health problems."
Nora D. Volkow, M. D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, follows that up with, "Not only are adolescents at greater risk for drug abuse, but they may suffer more consequences. There is also some evidence that in vulnerable teens-because of genetic factors-the abuse of marijuana can trigger a schizophreniform disorder."
Many that have smoked marijuana in the past or still to this day will tell you it alleviates the mood; let's not mention the munchies factor where all food just seems to taste better, and there is an insatiable need to continue eating, but that does not counter these studies which have been conducted over decades and contain information that teenagers should consider before making the decision to self-medicate themselves.
More about Marijuana, Teenagers, Studies