Cannabis and suicide issues linked in young users, but a big question remains

A new study has found a link between cannabis product use and issues related to suicide, including thinking about and attempting to commit suicide. The research focused specifically on young users below the age of 35, noting that though this link was found, the findings don't necessarily mean that cannabis use is the cause of the observed association.

The research was recently published in JAMA Network Open and it comes from the NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As part of their study, the researchers analyzed data on more than 280,000 people ages 18 to 35. Based on the survey data, the study found a link between cannabis use in this age group and an increased risk of experiencing mental health issues related to suicide.

According to the study, the link between cannabis use and suicide risk was greater in female participants and the association remained regardless of depression status. The increased risk of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts was observed even in users who used cannabis fairly infrequently, including less than 300 days yearly, the researchers note.

When focusing on people who didn't have a major depressive episode, the study found that the rate of suicidal ideation increased with the frequency of cannabis use. Additional research is necessary to determine whether cannabis use may directly increase suicide risk or if people who are already suicidal may be more likely to use cannabis.

The study's lead author Beth Han of the NIDA said:

Suicide is a leading cause of death among young adults in the United States, and the findings of this study offer important information that may help us reduce this risk. Depression and cannabis use disorder are treatable conditions, and cannabis use can be modified. Through better understanding the associations of different risk factors for suicidality, we hope to offer new targets for prevention and intervention in individuals that we know may be at high-risk. These findings also underscore the importance of tailoring interventions in a way that take sex and gender into account.