Marijuana use among teens and young adults linked to mental health conditions

Alex Cochran, Deseret News
Alex Cochran, Deseret News

Researchers in Denmark worked with the U.S. National Institutes of Health on a study which shows a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia in young people, especially young men — the research adds to growing concerns medical professionals have about the use of cannabis among younger generation.

The study was published in the academic journal Psychological Medicine earlier this month. Researchers examined close to 7 million people and said, “In conclusion, this study finds strong evidence of an association between CUD and schizophrenia among both males and females, and the magnitude of this association appears to be consistently larger among males than females, especially among those aged 16–25.”


In this case, CUD is an abbreviation meaning “cannabis use disorder.”

Researchers also said they found a strong between cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia in males ages 21 to 30.

While cannabis use disorder doesn’t account for the majority of cases where people have schizophrenia, researchers said “it appears to contribute to a non-negligible and steadily increasing proportion over the past five decades.”

How does marijuana impact teens?

Other research shows a link between cannabis use and mental health conditions in younger generations. NBC News said about a Columbia study, “teenagers who use cannabis only recreationally are two to four times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders, including depression and suicidality, than teenagers who don’t use cannabis at all.” The current research shows correlation, but does not show causation.

Ryan Sultan, lead researcher on the study, said in a press release, “Perceptions exist among youth, parents and educators that casual cannabis use is benign. We were surprised to see that cannabis use had such strong associations to adverse mental health and life outcomes for teens who did not meet the criteria for having a substance use condition.”

Study author Frances Levin said, “Exposing developing brains to dependency forming substances appears to prime the brain for being more susceptible to developing other forms of addiction later in life.” He said while teenagers may be turning to marijuana as a way to relieve depression symptoms, its use will likely exacerbate their symptoms as opposed to relieve them.

A different study reported on by News Medical found women undergraduate students ages 18 to 21 who used cannabis were “more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and stress,” when compared to men who used cannabis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “In 2019, 37% of U.S. high school students reported lifetime use of marijuana and 22% reported use in the past 30 days.” The CDC also said marijuana use has been linked to mental health conditions such as depression and social anxiety — early marijuana use has also been linked to schizophrenia.


How does marijuana impact adults?

Younger generations aren’t the only ones who may experience negative effects as a result of cannabis use.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said even though use of cannabis is increasing among all adult populations, the knowledge about its negative impacts is not increasing at the same rate.

There’s a risk for addiction, per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, especially because the marijuana currently used may be stronger than what was previously used due to overall growth in amount of THC used. Among its negative effects, it can lead to a decrease in IQ, has been linked to mental health conditions and also may contribute to reduced life satisfaction and relationship problems.