Frequent Cannabis Use in Depression Tripled Over Past Decade, Batya Swift Yasgur, 2020

Frequent Cannabis Use in Depression Tripled Over Past Decade

Batya Swift Yasgur, MA, LSW

Medscape, August 19, 2020

Not only are individuals with depression at significantly higher risk for cannabis use compared with those without depression, this trend has increased dramatically over the last decade, new research shows.

Investigators analyzed data from more than 16,000 US adults between the ages of 20 and 59 years and found that those with depression had almost twice the odds of any past-month cannabis use compared with those without depression. Odds rose from 1.5 in the 2005-2006 period to 2.3 in the 2015-2016 period.

Moreover, the odds ratio (OR) for daily or near-daily use almost tripled for those with vs without depression between the two periods.

“Clinicians should screen their depressed patients for cannabis use, since this is becoming more common and could actually make their depressive symptoms worse rather than better,” senior author Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of epidemiology, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, New York City, told Medscape Medical News.

The results were published online August 18 in JAMA Network Open.

Misleading Advertising

“Cannabis use is increasing in the US and the potency of cannabis products is increasing as well,” Hasin said.

“Misleading media information and advertising suggests that cannabis is a good treatment for depression, although studies show that cannabis use may actually worsen depression symptoms, [so] we were interested in whether US adults were increasingly likely to be cannabis users if they were depressed,” she reported.

To investigate, the researchers assessed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), with a final study sample consisting of 16,216 US adults. The mean age was 39.12 years, 48.9% were men, 66.4% were non-Hispanic white, 65.6% had at least some college education, and 62.4% had an annual family income of less than $75,000.

Of these participants, 7.5% had “probable depression,” based on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, the investigators report.

Past-month cannabis use was defined as using cannabis at least once during the past 20 days. Daily or near-daily past-month use was defined as using cannabis at least 20 times in the past 30 days.

Covariates included age, gender, race, education, marital status, annual family income, and past-year use of other substances, such as alcohol, heroin, and methamphetamine.

The researchers note that because the NHANES data were divided into six survey years (2005-2006, 2007-2008, 2009-2010, 2011-2012, 2013-2014, and 2015-2016), their analysis was based on a “new sample weight” that combined the datasets.

Especially Pronounced

Results showed that the prevalence of any past-month cannabis use in the overall sample group increased from 12.2% in the 2005-2006 period to 17.3% in the 2015-2016 period (P < .001).