Teen Pot Use Linked to Depression and Suicide
Special Report - May 20, 2008
Marijuana and depression are a “dangerous combination,” especially for teenagers, according to a new report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The federal study, which was released May 7, addresses the growing problem of marijuana use among depressed teenagers in the United States, who are twice as likely to use pot or illicit drugs as teens who are not depressed. But instead of relieving the symptoms of depression, the report warns that marijuana use can actually make depression worse and lead to more serious mental health problems ranging from anxiety and schizophrenia to suicide. Two million American teens report feeling depressed and experiencing a loss of interest in their normal daily activities in the past year, according to the report.
Among the report’s key findings: weekly or more frequent use of marijuana doubles a teenager’s risk of depression and anxiety; teens who smoke marijuana at least once a month are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users; and depressed teens are twice as likely (as non-depressed teens) to abuse or become dependent on marijuana. The report also shows that teenage girls are at an increased risk for depression, with three times as many girls as boys reporting depression in the past year (12 percent of teenage girls vs. four percent of teenage boys). According to the report, “girls who smoke marijuana daily” are five times more likely to “experience symptoms of depression and anxiety” than girls who do not smoke marijuana.
The report concludes by highlighting the important role that parents play in helping their children avoid drugs. It notes that teens who report having conversations about drugs and alcohol with their parents are less likely to use drugs. The ONDCP also advises parents to: (1) recognize the signs of drug use and depression, which can include poor grooming habits, withdrawal from family, loss of interest in normal activities, and changes in behavior and friends; (2) stay involved in their teens’ lives by monitoring activities, asking questions about friends and activities, and setting clear limits about drug and alcohol use; and (3) seek professional help if their teenager is suffering from depression.
“Marijuana is not the answer. Too many young people are making a bad situation worse by using marijuana in a misguided effort to relieve their symptoms of depression,” said John P. Walters, Director of ONDCP, in a press release. “Parents must not dismiss teen moodiness as a passing phase. Look closely at your teen’s behavior because it could be a sign of something more serious.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.