08 Oct Teenage Marijuana Use and Anxiety Disorders Found to Be Linked
Although marijuana possession was decriminalized in many parts of the country, followed by legal medical marijuana use approved in close to half of the nation and most recently recreational use made legal in Washington and Colorado, the move towards acceptance may be ahead of the science which can give a more accurate picture of its potential dangers.
Research has definitely taken on a new urgency given the current pro-marijuana climate both here and abroad. Separate U.S. and Australian studies suggest that using marijuana regularly is connected to later anxiety disorders. Furthermore, steady pot smoking during adolescence can lead to anxiety problems in adulthood, even if the teen eventually quits as long as a decade ahead of time.
According to Julia Buckner, professor at Louisiana State University and Director of the university’s Anxiety and Addictive Behaviors Clinic, more than four and a half million Americans are currently hooked on marijuana. Buckner, along with colleagues from the University of Houston and Yale Medical School, is in the middle of research which is revealing just how strong the link between marijuana use and anxiety actually is. The research is sponsored by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Her study began by soliciting subjects aged 18 to 65 with daily anxiety who expressed a readiness to stop using marijuana. Subjects were broken up into groups of four to five people who gather multiple times each week for three months. Each group is being guided by a graduate student under Buckner’s direction.
So far the LSU professor is able to say that social anxiety makes a person seven times as likely to become addicted to marijuana.
A separate study, completed in Melbourne, Australia, also finds a correlation between pot smoking and the presence of anxiety disorders. Here’s some of what researchers at the Australian research center discovered:
- People who smoked marijuana a lot as a teen and who kept using it regularly into their late twenties were three times more apt to have anxiety problems compared to non-marijuana users or even more casual marijuana users.
- People who used marijuana infrequently during their teen years but who increased their pot habit during their mid to late twenties were two and a half times more likely to be dealing with anxiety related issues.
People who smoked a lot as a teenager and who later quit altogether still faced a risk for anxiety problems. As many as ten years after those users had quit smoking pot there was still an increased risk for anxiety disorder. The link was evident even after researchers controlled for other possible contributing factors like using drugs other than marijuana or the presence of mental health concerns.
The lead author of the Australian study commented that finding a connection between teen marijuana use and later anxiety disorders is not so surprising. The teenage brain is still forming in regions that govern emotions and the likelihood that extensive marijuana use at that juncture could have a lasting emotional impact is certainly feasible.
Back in the U.S., our own Department of Health and Human Services conducted a 2010 survey which found that the figures for those addicted to marijuana are practically the same as the numbers for those addicted to every other kind of illegal substance combined. In other words, marijuana is addictive and the rates of addiction were alarmingly high, even before legalization. One can only presently surmise what new addiction rates will look like; Buckner says nearly 5 million.
Given the link to later anxiety problems we can only guess what the future mental health of the country will look like if the legalization trend continues.
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