TUESDAY, June 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who use marijuana appear to have an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide, according to a new study from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
In fact, the risk that someone between 18 and 34 will think about, plan for or attempt suicide increases with the amount of marijuana they use, according to results published June 22 in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Even occasional pot use was associated with a greater risk of suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts compared to no pot use at all,and the risk rises as people use more often, results show.
Risk also increased regardless of whether the cannabis user suffered from depression, although pot smokers with depression had an overall greater risk of suicidality, according to the study.
Also, women were more strongly affected by this link than men.
"Regardless of whether you had a history of depression or not, cannabis significantly increased the risk of suicidal behavior. It wasn't a small effect. It was a large effect," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA. "I expected an association, but it just took me aback."
The number of U.S. pot users more than doubled between 2008 and 2019, rising from 22.6 million to 45 million, researchers said in background notes. The number of daily or near-daily users almost tripled during the same period, rising from 3.6 million to 9.8 million.
Over the same span, the number of folks who had recently suffered major depression rose from 14.5 million to 19.4 million, and the number of suicidal people increased from 8.3 million to 12 million, researchers said. Annual deaths by suicide rose from about 35,000 in 2008 to nearly 45,900 in 2019.
To study possible links between suicidality and pot smoking, Volkow's team analyzed a decade's worth of data from a nationwide survey on drug use.
Suicidality tracked with a person's level of marijuana use, researchers found.