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People with Depression Are Twice as Likely to Use Cannabis

Cannabis use has increased over the last decade, and a new study shows that use is twice as common among people with depression — and many don’t factor in the risks.

The study looks at the prevalence of cannabis use among people in the U.S. with and without depression and their consideration of the risks involved. Professor Renee Goodwin (CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, The Graduate Center) and fellow researchers along with Jiaqi Zhu, research associate at CUNY’s Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health, worked on the study published in Addiction.

The researchers found that people with depression perceived the risks of cannabis use less and less over the years, from 2005 to 2017, which may explain why use among the group rapidly increased, according to the study.

“Various studies from other countries have long shown a strong relationship between cannabis use and depression among young persons,” Goodwin tells SUM.

“As cannabis use is becoming more common and increasingly legalized in the U.S., understanding the potential increase in use among vulnerable groups such as those with depression is needed for clinical and public health planning.”

The study utilized data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, with a total sample size of 728,691 people. The researchers noted that data suggest that heavy cannabis use has potentially more negative impacts on people with common mental health problems (like depression) than those without.

The study identified men and people aged 18-25 as particularly vulnerable groups that may be most in need of interventions.

Goodwin notes that, although people will depression are more likely to use cannabis, the drug “is not considered an effective treatment for depression.”

“While it may temporarily relieve symptoms,” she adds, “data suggest it is associated with prolonging or exacerbating depression.”