New Research Connects Heavy Marijuana Use to Anxiety Disorders, Identifies At-Risk Age Group

CORRECTION / A member of Indonesia's National Narcotics Agency (BNN) checks samples of seized illegally planted marijuana plants to be destroyed during a raid in a forest in Teupin Reusep, North Aceh on January 23, 2024.

New research released on Monday reveals that approximately one-third of individuals who sought medical attention at the emergency room for issues related to cannabis developed an anxiety disorder within a span of three years.

The study, which was published today in The Lancet’s open access journal eClinical Medicine, is considered the most thorough investigation into the connection between cannabis use and anxiety thus far.

A comprehensive study conducted by Canadian researchers analyzed the health records of over 12 million individuals residing in Ontario from 2008 to 2019.
These individuals had no previous history of anxiety disorders or any documented treatment for such conditions.

According to the study, individuals who sought emergency room treatment for cannabis use were found to have a significantly higher likelihood of being diagnosed with a new anxiety disorder within three years, whether it was during an outpatient visit, emergency room visit, or hospital stay.

Additionally, there was a significantly higher likelihood of needing further medical attention, such as outpatient or ER visits, or even hospitalization, for an anxiety disorder in the future.

Unraveling the Scientific Controversy

CORRECTION / A member of Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency (BNN) checks samples of seized illegally planted marijuana plants to be destroyed during a raid in a forest in Teupin Reusep, North Aceh on January 23, 2024.

There is ongoing debate among scientists regarding the relationship between cannabis use and anxiety.

Some argue that cannabis use may contribute to anxiety symptoms, while others suggest that individuals with pre-existing anxiety may be more likely to use cannabis as a form of self-medication.

However, the authors of the study advised against using cannabis as a treatment for anxiety.They wrote that there is insufficient evidence to support its effectiveness.

In addition, utilizing it could potentially hinder individuals from initiating evidence-based treatments such as prescription medication and/or therapy, or exacerbate their symptoms.

A 2020 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine highlighted the findings that THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, has been found to potentially heighten anxiety.
On the other hand, CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of cannabis, has shown potential in reducing anxiety.

A study published in Cureus in April 2023 highlighted a rise in emergency room visits for psychiatric effects of cannabis following the legalization of the drug in Michigan in 2018.
Researchers discovered that a significant portion, approximately 20%, of emergency room visits at a particular hospital in the state led to a diagnosis of anxiety induced by cannabis.

In a note published in the New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch in 2018, Dr. Peter Roy-Byrne, the publication’s senior consulting editor for psychiatry, described cannabis use as a short-term solution for individuals with mood- and anxiety-disorder symptoms. He noted that while it may provide temporary relief, it can have negative long-term effects on their overall well-being.

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