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.
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Suicide Risk Factors:
- Having a psychiatric disorder like depression, bipolar disorder, or severe anxiety
- Having a substance use disorder (including alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs)
- Being bullied by peers
- Other physical or medical issues, like a chronic disease or illness
- Having a history of physical or emotional abuse
- Having a family history of suicide
- Easy access to guns or other weapons in the home
Suicide Warning Signs:
- No longer interested in normal daily activities or things that made them happy before
- Talking or writing about suicide, or talking about people who have committed suicide
- Experiencing drastic mood swings—happy one minute, depressed the next
- No longer interested in social contact with family and friends
- Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
- Engaging in risky behavior
- Being severely anxious or showing other noticeable personality changes
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
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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