Cannabis use linked with suicidality, study finds

Cannabis use has been associated with a higher likelihood of thinking about suicide in young adults, according to a study from the US National Institutes of Health published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The survey study examined data from more than 281,000 adults ages 18 to 34, who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2008 to 2019. These adults answered questions about cannabis use or disorder, major depressive episodes and suicidality — which includes suicidal ideation, plans or attempts — in the past year.

Participants were considered to have cannabis use disorder if they had developed tolerance; used cannabis in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended; been unable to reduce cannabis use; spent a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from the effects of cannabis; given up important activities and obligations in favor of cannabis; and continued cannabis use despite negative consequences. The study authors said they based their diagnostic criteria off of some of the characteristics of cannabis use disorder described in the fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults,” said US National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow, the study’s senior author, in a statement.