Cannabis Use in Adolescence Associated With Depression, Suicidal Behavior

Young girl wearing leather jacket smoking a joint
Preventive strategies to reduce cannabis use among youth are needed, as adolescent cannabis consumption is associated with increased risk for depression and suicidal behavior later in life.

Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of developing major depression and suicidality among adolescents, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry. Cannabis is the drug most commonly abused by adolescents worldwide, and researchers sought to evaluate the gravity of its effect on the development of major depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior.

Longitudinal and prospective studies used data from 269 articles published on Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsychInfo, and Proquest Dissertations and Theses to assess cannabis use in adolescents younger than 18 years and development of depression from 18 to 32 years. The odds ratio was adjusted for the presence of depression, anxiety, and/or suicidal behavior at baseline.

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On the basis of the quantitative analysis, including data from 23,317 individuals, the odds ratio of developing depression for cannabis users in young adulthood compared with nonusers was 1.37. The odds ratio for suicidal behavior was 1.50, and 3.46 for suicidal attempt. The odds ratio for anxiety, however, was not statistically significant.

The study was limited by a lack of adjustments for other drug use, cigarettes, and/or psychological factors that may have contributed to the findings. In addition, the studies included in the analysis used different methods of determining major depressive disorder.

Researchers stated the findings illuminate “an important public health problem and concern,” and highlight the importance of interventions educating adolescents on the risks associated with cannabis use. “Preadolescents and adolescents should avoid using cannabis as use is associated with a significant increased risk of developing depression or suicidality in young adulthood,” researchers added.


Gobbi G, Atkin T, Zytynski T, et al. Association of cannabis use in adolescence and risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in young adulthood: a systematic review and meta-analysis [published online February 13, 2019]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4500