A new study conducted by the Drug-Free America Foundation and commissioned by Johnny’s Ambassadors concluded that states with fewer legal restrictions on marijuana have seen more use among teens as well as declining mental health.
In addition, The Center Square, which reported the study, stated that there seems to be "an association between adolescent cannabis use, the use of high potency cannabis products, and increased risk of psychosis.
“A difference-in-means test demonstrates that cannabis use is higher among all age groups in more highly permissive states, with 47 percent more monthly cannabis use among adolescents (ages 12-17) and 81 percent more monthly cannabis use among young adults (ages 18-25) in US states with fully legalized recreational cannabis programs than states where cannabis use has not been legalized,” the report said. “While cannabis use grew, subsequent raises in mean averages for major depressive events, severe mental illnesses, and suicidal thoughts all increased in more highly permissive US states.”
Researchers are calling for a deeper look into this apparent corollary relationship, by studying high-potency products.
“The research results presented in this study demonstrate that for each one percent increase in overall monthly cannabis use, self-reported major depression increased by 0.45 percent for adolescents and 0.21 percent for young adults,” the report said. “For every one percent increase in overall monthly cannabis use by young adults, severe mental illnesses increased by 0.12 percent, and suicidal thoughts increased by 0.11 percent. Panel regression models included control variables for gender, marital status, educational attainment, veteran status, unemployment status, race, and ethnicity.”
Amy Ronshausen, executive director of the Drug-Free America Foundation, said that as the legal market for cannabis has grown, market competition has driven producers to create increasingly strong products that include more THC.
“If there is a dispensary on every corner, and people are selling these products, you better believe that your dispensary is going to sell the biggest, worst, most potent marijuana product there is because you want your edge of that market and that is what we see happening,” Ronshausen said.
“Most of the research that we have is on lower potency products, low potency THC, and the research isn’t great when it comes to the harms, it shows that these products are harmful,” Ronshausen added. “So when these new strands that could be up to 90% THC, we really don’t know what the outcomes are going to be on that, and that’s kind of scary. It’s a new product.”
What Do Other Studies Say?
According to the National Institutes of Health, research has shown a linkage between marijuana use and negative mental health outcomes. Although, not all studies have found such a link.
“Several studies have linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, but whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine,” the federal health agency said on its website.
Researchers say teens are particularly vulnerable to the marketing of these products and the adverse mental health effects because their brains are still developing.
“It also affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, so regular use by teens may have negative and long-lasting effects on their cognitive development, putting them at a competitive disadvantage and possibly interfering with their well-being in other ways,” Nora D. Volkow, director National Institute on Drug Abuse, said in the agency’s research report on the issue.
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