A new study conducted by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and Oxford University has linked cannabis use in adolescents to an increased risk of depression. In 2017, a study by the Institut en santé mentale de Montréal had already shown a link between cannabis use and violent behaviour. The risks of cannabis use among adolescents pose significant challenges in terms of prevention and rehabilitation.
Cannabis and Mental Health
A percentage of young cannabis users are at risk of developing depression and suicidal behaviour, according to the findings of researchers at the Research Institute of McGill University, who reviewed the combined results of several international studies involving a total study population of more than 23,000 individuals to determine if there is a link between cannabis use and mental health in adolescents.
People between the ages of 15 and 25 account for 20 to 30 percent (the majority) of cannabis users in Canada; researchers analyzed the risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among daily and occasional users to see whether there is a link.
Their findings suggest that a diagnosis of depression in seven percent of Canadians and Americans aged 18 to 30 could be attributable to cannabis use, meaning that 25,000 young Canadians and 400,000 young Americans may suffer from depression as a result of earlier cannabis use. While researchers emphasized that it is not possible to predict the exact risks of cannabis use for each individual, the widespread use of cannabis among young people is increasingly regarded as a public health issue.
A previous study led by the Institut en santé mentale de Montréal showed that in individuals with mental health issues, prolonged cannabis use was very often linked to violent behaviour. Studies have shown that the chronic use of cannabis causes prefrontal cortical deficits; the prefrontal cortex plays an important role in the inhibition of impulsive and violent behaviour.
A Public Health Issue
The legalization of cannabis in Canada has raised several public health issues and challenges. While it is impossible at this time to assess with any certainty whether legalization has contributed to an increase in cannabis use, several scientific studies have been conducted in order to address the mental health risks of cannabis use.
Over the past 45 years, Portage has taken part in a number of studies on the health effects of drug addiction. Few studies have shown a clear link between cannabis use and mental health problems. The drug rehabilitation counsellors at Portage witness the ravages of cannabis use every day. The men and women undergoing rehabilitation often talk about depression and anxiety disorders as specifically linked to cannabis use. Several of them have attempted suicide at some point in their life due to acute distress. Whether they are in the adult or youth program, or the program specifically geared to mothers, at Portage they can acquire the skills they need to lead a drug-free, productive life.
The link between cannabis use and mental health can be seen among residents of the Mentally Ill Chemical Users (MICA) program, which is now also available to women. That link, substantiated by the scientific community, poses a challenge that governments and health organizations will have to address in the coming years.