A new study shows that heavy use of marijuana by teens and young adults with mood disorders is linked to an increased risk of self-harm, suicide attempts, and even death.
According to the study, unintentional overdoses, suicide, and homicide were the three most frequent causes of death.
"The perception is that marijuana is safe to use, but we need to educate parents and kids that there are risks involved, particularly with heavy and high potency cannabis use," said Cynthia Fontanella, study author and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at the Ohio State University's College of Medicine
Fontanella added that doctors need to "intervene to identify and treat" cannabis use disorder and children with mood disorders.
Cannabis, or marijuana, use disorder happens when there becomes a dependence on the use of weed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that "people who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults."
Studies show a strong association between overuse of weed and suicide attempts and death in adults. Earlier studies revealed that children with mood disorders are highly likely to use and abuse marijuana. Fontanella believes children turn to weed because they do not like the side effects of their prescribed medications.
"Mood stabilizers and psychotic medications can cause weight gain, say up to 30 or 40 pounds ... stiffness of their neck or eyes ... and it can cause sedation," said Fontanella. "So, they may not use their medication and may self-medicate with cannabis to treat the mood disorders."
On the other hand, the use of weed is thought to potentially contribute to the development of mood disorders.
"It doesn't prove that using cannabis causes depression or self-harm, but also doesn't definitively refute it," said assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dr. Lucien Gonzalez, who was not involved in the study. "Complicated associations appear to be found, and we just don't fully understand them yet."