TUESDAY, Dec. 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) — People suffering from depression are often desperate for anything to break them out of their debilitating mood disorder.
But in their misery, many might be turning to a risky solution that’s likely to make their condition even worse — marijuana.
People with depression are twice as likely to be using pot as those who aren’t depressed, researchers reported in the current issue of the journal Addiction.
“Cannabis use has increased rapidly among persons with depression, and this increase has been more rapid than among those without depression,” said senior researcher Renee Goodwin. She’s an adjunct associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City.
In 2017, about 19% of people with depression said they had used pot in the last month, compared with about 9% of others, according to an annual government survey on drug use among Americans.
Daily cannabis use occurred in 7% of people with depression compared to 3% of those without the mood disorder, the investigators found.
The researchers said this might be happening because marijuana is gaining a reputation for being harmless.
Depressed people who see no risk linked to regular use of pot are much more likely to use it than those who consider it significantly risky — 39% compared with about 2%, Goodwin said.
“With increasing legalization in the U.S., previous studies have shown that perception of risk associated with use is declining overall,” she said. “The results of this study show that this decline is even more rapid among this vulnerable population.”
Experts said the problem is that marijuana’s effects actually are more likely to worsen depression than relieve it.
“We have no evidence whatsoever that marijuana helps in these psychiatric disorders but, nevertheless, people believe it,” said Dr. Andrew Saxon, a psychiatrist with the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, in Seattle.
Symptoms of depression that might be heightened by marijuana include lack of motivation, listlessness and isolation as well as a lack of pleasure and interest in things people used to enjoy, said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.