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Significant Rise in Cannabis Use Among US Adults With Depression

September 02, 2020

Cannabis use is significantly growing among US adults with depression, who have approximately double the odds of cannabis use compared with adults without depression. Researchers published findings from a repeated cross-sectional study in JAMA Network Open online.

“The findings of this study indicate that individuals with depression are at increasing risk of cannabis use, with a particularly strong increase in daily or near-daily cannabis use,” wrote researchers from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, both in New York, New York. “Clinicians should be aware of these trends and the evidence that cannabis does not treat depression effectively when discussing cannabis use with patients.” 

Researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey about past-month cannabis use and daily or near-daily (20 or more times) past-month cannabis use for 16,216 adults age 20 through 59 between 2005 and 2016.

Treating Patients Who Have Made Cannabis Their Medicine

Compared with adults without depression, adults with depression had 1.90 times the odds of any past-month cannabis use and 2.29 times the odds of daily or near-daily cannabis use, researchers found.

Furthermore, the link between cannabis use and depression strengthened significantly over the study period. In 2005 to 2006, adults with depression had 46% higher odds of any cannabis use and 30% higher odds of near-daily cannabis use. By 2015 to 2016, they had 130% higher odds of any cannabis use and 216% higher odds of daily use, according to the study.

“These results suggest that over time, a higher proportion of individuals with depression are using cannabis,” researchers wrote. “This could be the case if an increasing number of individuals with depression are using cannabis to self-medicate, potentially influenced by media and advertising presenting cannabis as beneficial to health. These results could also be interpreted as indicating that an increasing proportion of individuals who use cannabis are developing depression.”

The latter scenario is unlikely, however, since the prevalence of depression remained stable throughout the study period, researchers noted.

—Jolynn Tumolo 


Gorfinkel LR, Stohl M, Hasin D. Association of depression with past-month cannabis use among US adults aged 20 to 59 years, 2005 to 2016. JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(8):e2013802.

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