According to Reuters Health, regular cannabis use is increasing faster among people with depression and they are less likely to perceive it as risky compared to people who are not depressed, a new U.S. study suggests.

In fact , new research suggests that people with depression are about twice as likely to use cannabis as people who do not experience depression. The study was conducted by scientists at the universities of North Carolina and New York.

Research

Therefore , the researchers examined data collected from a total of nearly 729,000 people aged 12 and older between 2005 and 2017, including any previous month’s cannabis use and any depression experienced in the previous year.

In the final year of the study, about 19% of people with depression reported at least some cannabis use, compared with 8.7% of those with no recent history of depression. while in 2005, about 10.2% of people with depression and 5.7% of people without depression used the drug.

The proportion of depressed people who perceived cannabis use as a risk behavior also increased from 41% to 17% over the study period, compared to a decrease from 52% to 33% among those without depression, according to the Addiction magazine report.

This perception of risk basically , decreases more rapidly among people with depression, said Renee Goodwin of Columbia University in New York, lead author of the study.

People with depression who perceive little or no risk associated with use have a much higher prevalence of cannabis use, compared to those who perceive higher associated risks,” Goodwin said via e-mail.

Results

The study found that current cannabis use was highest among 18-25-year-olds suffering from depression, at nearly 30%. Use was also common among depressed, male, black or single people, at around 23% for each group.

One limitation of the study is that the researchers relied on study participants to truthfully report any cannabis use or symptoms of depression; so , they did not have laboratory tests for drug use or medical records to confirm a mental health diagnosis.

The researchers were also unable to explain whether the legalization of cannabis might have had an impact on the proportion of people who used the drug or on participants’ perceptions of its safety, the study team notes.

Some people indeed ,think that drug use is a form of self-medication for depression or an attempt to self-medicate depressive symptoms, said Goodwin.

During the study period, most U.S. states legalized cannabis use for medicinal or recreational purposes or both, and it is also possible that this may have contributed to reducing the perception of risk, Goodwin added.

There is anecdotal evidence that some people perceive cannabis as less risky than psychiatric drugs and with legalization, (cannabis) may be cheaper and more available and associated with less stigma, said Goodwin.

However, people need to understand that cannabis may actually be riskier for people suffering from depression.

There is no evidence to suggest that cannabis use will alleviate the symptoms of depression, except temporarily, and there is some evidence to suggest that cannabis use may worsen or prolong depression,” said Goodwin. “Historically, patients in treatment/recovery from depression have been advised to avoid cannabis use.

According to Reuters, the study was not designed to determine whether depression might influence the frequency with which people use cannabis, or whether there is a risk of regular use of cannabis.

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