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Teen cannabis-users ‘more likely to attempt suicide’ later in life

A study published today also found they are less likely to finish secondary school or get a degree.

Image: Alaska Carter via Flickr

A STUDY HAS found that people who use cannabis daily during their teen years are seven times more likely to attempt suicide later in life.

A team of Australian and New Zealand researchers combined data on up to 3,765 participants who used cannabis from three large, long-running studies to fond out about the potential effects of using the drug before the age of 17.

The research was published today in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug globally and recent statistics have shown that in some countries adolescents are starting cannabis use at a younger age and more adolescents are using cannabis heavily. In England, 4% of 11–15 year olds report cannabis use in the past month, roughly 7% of US high-school seniors are daily or near-daily cannabis users, and in Australia, around 1% of 14–19 year olds are daily users of the drug, whilst 4% use weekly.

The researchers recorded clear and consistent associations between frequency of cannabis use during adolescence and most young adult outcomes investigated, even after controlling for 53 potential confounding factors including age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, use of other drugs, and mental illness. Importantly, they also noted that the risks increased relative to dose, with daily cannabis users showing the strongest effects.

They found that individuals who are daily users of cannabis before age 17 are seven times more likely to attempt suicide, have an 18 times greater chance of cannabis dependence and are eight times as likely to use other illicit drugs later in life.

Though links between cannabis and suicide have been mention before, previous studies have pointed out that the association can be explained by markers of psychological and behavioural problems. A study in 2009 found cannabis is unlikely to have a strong effect on risk of completed suicide.

And while this particular study found teens who use the drug are more likely to attempt suicide, it does not suggest cannabis is the cause of suicidal thoughts.

The researchers in this most recent study also found that those using cannabis daily in their teens are over 60% less likely to finish secondary school or get a degree.

Lead author of the study Dr Edmund Silins said the results provide “strong evidence that the prevention or delay of cannabis use is likely to have broad health and social benefits”.

“Efforts to reform cannabis legislation should be carefully assessed to ensure they reduce adolescent cannabis use and prevent potentially adverse effects on adolescent development,” she commented.

Helplines

  • Samaritans: 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Console: 1800 247 247 (Suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware: 1890 303 302 (Depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House: 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie (Suicide, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Teen-Line Ireland: 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

Read: Governments called on to form national plans for suicide prevention>

Read: ‘I have forgiven him’ – Cork woman opens up about crash that killed her young family>

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