Study reveals that depressed Americans are using more cannabis

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University in the City of New York suggests that Americans who suffer from depression are more likely to use cannabis. Moreover, depressed cannabis consumers don’t think that consuming the plant is risky; the same could not be said for non-depressed individuals.

“This perception of risk is decreasing more rapidly among those with depression,” said the study’s senior author, Renee Goodwin, in an email. Her study was published in the journal Addiction. “Those with depression who perceive little or no risk associated with use have a much higher prevalence of cannabis use, relative to those who perceive higher associated risks,” she added.

To reach this conclusion, Goodwin and her team of researchers analyzed data from approximately 729,000 people aged 12 and above. The data was submitted by individuals between the years 2005 and 2017. Also included in the research was data pertaining to any cannabis use or depressive episodes experienced by study subjects during the previous month and year; respectively.

19 percent of depressed individuals used cannabis during the final year of cannabis study

Based on the results of this cannabis study, approximately 10.2 percent of depressed people reported cannabis use. Among individuals who did not suffer from depression, just 5.7 percent used cannabis. These percentages increased during the study’s final year. Approximately 19 percent of depressed individuals said they used some cannabis in 2017, whereas 8.7 percent of individuals without depression used the plant in the same year.

It seems that, as time progressed and cannabis consumption became more normalized across America, fewer depressed individuals deemed cannabis use to be “risky”. From 2005-2017, the amount of depressed people who regarded cannabis consumption as potentially unsafe shrunk from 41 percent to 17 percent. Among those who didn’t have depression, the amount reduced from 52 percent to 33 percent.

The cannabis study also confirmed that the most common age for consumption among depressed Americans rested somewhere in the range of 18-25 years old; this age group constituted 30 percent of people. Furthermore, depressed people who were not married, black or male constituted 23 percent for each individual group.

Researchers say the study on cannabis use among depressed individuals was somewhat limited

Future studies could provide a more accurate insight into depressed people’s views on cannabis consumption, according to Goodwin. She says that, since medical records or laboratory tests were not used to determine whether or not each study subject had been diagnosed with depression, the self-reported data was not fact-based.

In addition to this, Goodwin touched upon the fact that her team of researchers could not fully determine if the legalization of cannabis influenced the number of people who used the drug, nor how it influenced their thoughts on the drug’s safety.

“There is some thinking that drug use is a form of self-medication of depression, or attempted self-medication of depressive symptoms,” said Goodwin. She believes that sweeping legalization across the U.S. the vast majority of which was enacted during the course of this study may have also been a contributing factor in swaying the opinions of consumers on cannabis’ risk factor.

As of January 2020, 33 U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis and 11 have legalized recreational cannabis.