It turns out that cannabis use is not linked to anxiety disorders after all. New research found that using marijuana as an adult is not associated with a variety of mood and anxiety disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.
Of course, this is quite a challenge to some previous research that has shown that marijuana use is associated with depression and anxiety.
In order to come to a conclusion, the researchers examined the records of nearly 35,000 U.S. adults who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. They examined the prevalence of marijuana use among the study participants in 2001 and 2002. The experts checked on the participants’ rates of mental-health problems three years later.
Then, after controlling for a variety of confounding factors, such as socio-demographic characteristics, family history and environment, and past and present psychiatric disorders, they finally discovered their answer. Cannabis use was definitely not associated with increased risk for developing mood or anxiety disorders.
It may sound like good news, but don’t get enthusiastic just yet – there is a downside to this discovery. The same study did find, however, an association between marijuana use and later substance use disorders, such as abuse of and dependence on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and drugs.
Specifically, at the three-year follow-up, marijuana users were about six times more likely to have any substance use disorder; nearly three times as likely to have an alcohol disorder; and about 10 times as likely to report any marijuana use disorder. This isn’t necessarily surprising: it’s fairly obvious that if you use a substance, you’re putting yourself at risk of a substance-use disorder.
In short, people who use one drug often use others. This is as true of marijuana as it is of alcohol.
The findings concerning cannabis raise the question of whether alcohol use also contributes to the risk of subsequent substance use disorders.
lead author Mark Olfson of Columbia University said in an email. But that issue is beyond the scope of the current study, he added.
On the other hand, the findings on mental health are more interesting, given the conflicting picture portrayed by previous research. Olfson and his colleagues think some prior evidence of links between marijuana and psychiatric disorders could be due more to confounding factors than anything else.
The new study adds to prior research discrediting the connection between marijuana and common mental-health disorders. And it’s important, because much of the federal government’s current literature on marijuana includes claims about links between marijuana and depression that are inaccurate in light of the latest findings.
For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration makes these claims in its official fact sheet on marijuana. And in its 2014 publication, the DEA mentions ‘depression’ no fewer than 14 times, claiming that pot is linked to depression among teens, adults and even dogs.
Also, given that these documents are used to inform policy at the federal level and below, it is crucial that they reflect the best, most accurate research. This is especially true given the rapidly changing marijuana-policy landscape today.
All in all, this particular study is a step forward and the message coming out of it is that marijuana is not a benign drug.
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