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College cannabis users report worsening depression and anxiety

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There is a significant association between cannabis use and Depression and anxiety in young adults, new research suggests.

The results of a survey of college students showed that the mental health of cannabis users worsened over a 5-year period.



Bernard Sarmiento

“A very important part of this study is finding an increased impact on mental health, based on deteriorating screening scores for depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being,” said co-author Bernard Sarmiento, a medical student at the University of Central Florida. Orlando, he said Medscape Medical News.

The results were presented at the American Academy addicted 32nd Annual Meeting of Psychiatry.

Psychogenic commonly used

Sarmiento said cannabis is the most widely used psychoactive compound after alcohol and tobacco. In 2019, more than 200 million people worldwide used the drug, with the highest prevalence rate among young adults.

Use in this population is also increasing. The results of one study showed that rates of cannabis use among American college students increased from 34% in 2014 to 44% by 2020.

Sarmiento said cannabis can affect cognition, balance, breathing and the developing fetus, but there are also mental health effects. He added that chronic use is linked to psychotic and mood disorders.

It can also lead to cannabis use disorder (CUD). One survey showed that 22 million people worldwide are affected by CUD, with 22 years being the average age of onset for the disease.

In the United States, cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, with individual states deciding whether or not to allow it for medical use. So far, 37 countries have done so. Of these, 18 states, in addition to Washington, D.C., also allow recreational use, Sarmiento noted.

in Florida Medical Marijuana It was legalized in 2017. The legislation allows the use of cannabis for certain conditions such as epilepsyand cancer and Immunity deficiency Virus.

The researchers examined data from the Healthy Mind Study from 2015 to 2020 — the years surrounding the legislation in Florida. This study was launched in 2007 by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and regularly polls a random sample of college students about a number of mental health issues.

The survey asked respondents about cannabis use in the last 30 days. The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) was used to assess depression, generalized anxiety disorder-7 (GAD-7) to examine anxiety, and the Prosperity Scale (FS) to consider psychological well-being.

Of the interest period, there have been more than 300,000 responses nationally and 20,000 in Florida.

About the results

Nationwide, results showed significantly higher scores on PDQ and GAD, indicating worse depression and anxiety. and lower FS scores, indicating lower self-esteem among cannabis users versus non-users (all comparisons, s <.001).

Results worsened for both cannabis and non-cannabis users during the study. Investigators note that college students today face a number of stressors, such as the prospect of being away from home for the first time, exposure to alcohol and drugs, and not getting appropriate support. It may also be, they added, that more of them are reporting mental health issues.



Dr. Ryan’s Hall

Ryan Hall, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, told the Sarmiento teacher that there is now less stigma surrounding mental illness, allowing students to feel “comfortable enough to be recognized in a survey.” Medscape Medical News.

Investigators have found that cannabis use fluctuates somewhat from year to year, but overall it hasn’t increased significantly nationally – hovering around 20%. This may be because the study did not extend long enough, Sarmiento said.

He noted that Oregon, a state that allows recreational use of cannabis, saw an increase in cannabis use from 2012 to 2016. “It would be interesting in the [the] In the future to expand the study to states like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado,” where recreational use is permitted, Sarmiento said.

There was also a rise over time in the number of responders who met the threshold for moderate or severe depression or anxiety. Sarmiento noted, “This can be worrisome because people who suffer from major depression and anxiety, especially in situations like college, can experience psychological crises. These fears can be heightened during exams and writing papers.”

He added that the results among college students in Florida “reflected what we found at the national level.” However, in Florida, the female response rate was “significantly higher” than the male response rate of 70% versus the national average of 59.5%.

Laying chicken and eggs

It’s unclear if this is because students are depressed or anxious that they use cannabis more, or if that use makes them more susceptible to these conditions.

“It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation based on the data we have, but it was interesting that cannabis users across all five years fared worse on all three measures,” Sarmiento said.

The limitations of the cited study included its cross-sectional design, which makes it more difficult to assess causal association; Relying on self-reports, he did not look at the amount or frequency of cannabis use.

“So someone who used to use it once a month might now use it six times a month or a day, or have less concern about criminalization and therefore more reporting,” Hall said. He added that the potency of cannabis may change.

“That’s a guess, but it may be easier for people to access products that contain much higher concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. That “could translate to higher scores even if the frequency of use is the same,” Hall said.

In response to a question from the meeting delegate, Sarmiento noted that the study did not investigate whether study participants were taking psychotropic medications.

“A prospective, prospective study could look at how scores of cannabis users who receive treatment, counseling, or take an anti-anxiety or depression medication compare to cannabis users who do not receive this intervention,” he said.

Examination required?

Comment on Medscape Medical NewsThe higher depression and anxiety scores and lower psychological well-being scores reported by students using cannabis in this study are “consistent” with emerging literature.

“The results of this study highlight mental health concerns that may require screening or therapeutic intervention among college students who report cannabis use,” said Mooney, president-elect of the AAAP.

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP), 32nd Annual Meeting. Fourth paper session. It was submitted on December 12, 2021.

Investigators reported no relevant financial relationships.

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