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Healthy Balance

The Link Between Marijuana & Young Adult Suicide

teen smoking marijuana

Recreational marijuana is now legal for adults in many states, including Virginia. This has made it much easier for everyone to get and use it. In fact, marijuana use in the United States doubled from 2008 to 2019 — from about 22.6 million people in 2008 to about 45 million in 2019.

Now, new government data suggests that some teens who use marijuana may be more likely to consider suicide than those who don’t use marijuana.

This information comes from a recent study by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published in JAMA Network Open. The study focused on teens and young adults ages 18-35.

However, it didn't determine that suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts are from marijuana use. The study only shared data showing that teens and young adults who use marijuana were more likely to consider suicide. Therefore, the exact reason for this is not yet known.

Teens & Mental Health

One theory is that people who have a mood disorder, like depression or bipolar disorder, are more likely to use marijuana. Health experts don’t know for sure what comes first — the mood disorder or the marijuana use. But since marijuana changes the way the brain reacts to emotions, someone with depression may be more likely to consider suicide or self-harm. 

You might be unsure about your teen or young adult who uses marijuana and also has a mood disorder. Here are some risk factors for suicide and some behaviors to watch out for.

Worried About a Loved One?

Learn how to support a friend or family member, including a list of Charlottesville-area resources.

Suicide Risk Factors:

Suicide Warning Signs:

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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