A year and a half after Michigan’s first pot shops opened, a new study by the federal government shows a link between marijuana use and suicide in young adults.
The study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which analyzed data from more than 280,000 people ages 18 to 35, suggests marijuana users thought about suicide, planned suicide or attempted it more often than people who don’t use marijuana.
The findings come as marijuana usage increases across the country and as more states like Michigan — where the first marijuana stores opened in December 2019 — legalize it for recreational use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of adults in the United States who use cannabis jumped from 22.6 million in 2008 to 45 million in 2019. The number of daily or near-daily users increased from 3.6 million to 9.8 million during that same time.
While the researchers aren’t saying that marijuana is causing suicidal thoughts or actions, they are pointing out that people who use pot are more prone to suicidal thoughts or actions.
“While we cannot establish that cannabis use caused the increased suicidality we observed in this study, these associations warrant further research, especially given the great burden of suicide on young adults,” NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow, senior author of the study, said in a prepared statement. “As we better understand the relationship between cannabis use, depression and suicidality, clinicians will be able to provide better guidance and care to patients.”
Researchers studied data from four groups of people — those who do not use marijuana, those who use marijuana but don’t use it every day, those who use it daily (which, for the purposes of the study, was defined as at least 300 days a year), and those who are addicted to it.
The conclusion: Among people who did not report having depression, 3% of people who do not use marijuana reported thoughts of suicide, compared to 7% of nondaily cannabis users, 9% of daily cannabis users and 14% of those addicted to cannabis.
Among people with depression, 35% of people who did not use cannabis had suicidal thoughts, compared to 44% of those who reported nondaily cannabis use, 53% of those who used cannabis daily and 50% of those who are addicted to cannabis.
The study published online Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, the free, online journal of the American Medical Association.