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Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression: An Analysis of Recent Data Shows 'Self-Medicating' Could Actually Make Things Worse

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2008
8 pages
This report presents recent data on the prevalence of marijuana use by teens who feel depressed and the effects of marijuana on depression and other mental disorders.
Two million teens reported feelings of depression and loss of interest in daily activities during the past year. Depressed teens are twice as likely as nondepressed teens to use marijuana and other illicit drugs in an attempt to relieve the symptoms of depression. Recent studies show, however, that using marijuana can worsen depression and lead to more serious mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide. Weekly or more frequent use of marijuana doubles a teen's risk of having depression and anxiety. Teens who smoke marijuana at least once a month are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers. Teen girls are especially at risk; three times as many girls (12 percent) as boys (4 percent) experienced depression during the year, and girls who smoke marijuana daily are significantly more likely to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety. One of the reasons that depressed teens engage in self-medication with marijuana and other drugs is that the majority who report feeling depressed are not receiving professional help. They have not seen or spoken to a medical doctor or other professional about their feelings. Parental action is critical in ensuring that depressed adolescent children receive appropriate professional help. This means parents must be alert to their teen's behavior and mood swings that may indicate depression and/or the use of marijuana and other drugs that may cause or intensify depression. 3 figures