Cannabis Use and Thoughts of Suicide


Published On: December 13, 2023

A recent study published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has shown an association between cannabis use and suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts. [1]

It also suggests a link between the consumption of cannabis and thoughts of self-harm. At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we offer support and addiction treatment services to those struggling with cannabis addiction.

Why do people who use cannabis struggle with thoughts of suicide?

A person with clasped hands, thinking

There are many reasons why an individual who uses cannabis may struggle with suicidal thoughts.

Firstly, people with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety and who are at risk of suicide ideation are more likely to use cannabis as a coping mechanism.

This form of self-medication is most likely due to the feelings of detachment and distraction cannabis can provide.

The study also found that those who used cannabis occasionally were more likely to have depression than those who didn’t consume cannabis at all. This was conducted in 2019 with 281,000 people between the ages of 18 to 35.

Whilst there is still lots of research to be carried out, the study adds to the ever-growing evidence between cannabis consumption and self-harm.

Cannabis makes some users feel relaxed, tired, and sleepy. For people with depression, this is often seen as a welcomed distraction.

However, whilst it may feel good in the moment, cannabis can have a detrimental effect on the mental health of users and cause repeated patterns of abuse to form.

Other factors also contribute to a person’s likelihood to use drugs such as environmental factors, social factors, and genetic factors.

Examples of this include if you are friends with people who regularly consume cannabis, you will be more likely to try it. The more normalised this consumption becomes, the more likely you are to keep smoking or ingesting it.

Genetics play a large role in a person’s likelihood of developing a substance use disorder by around 50% which is why addiction is classed as a chronic condition, not a moral failure.

In another recent study, researchers found that within a birth cohort regular cannabis use led to an increased rate of suicidal ideation in males. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men below the age of 50. [2]

How does cannabis work in the body?

A man reading in bed

When smoked, cannabis rapidly enters the bloodstream. From here, it is carried to the brain which causes the effects to be felt very quickly changing a person’s mood and behaviour.

Cannabis contains a psychoactive compound called THC; this produces a ‘high’ sensation. Cannabis can be smoked, ingested with food (also called edibles), swallowed via capsules, or used in oil form.

THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain producing feelings of euphoria. It also produces side effects such as:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hand-eye coordination problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Breathlessness
  • Bloodshot eyes

The THC compound in cannabis is what causes long-term negative effects on the brain, especially in adolescents. If cannabis is consumed regularly at a young age, it can cause irreversible damage to cognitive function in the brain. [3]

Cannabis and Depression

sleeping

Some cannabis users consume the drug because it makes them feel detached from feelings of depression. Others, however, feel more depressed due to their consumption but find it very difficult to stop.

There are also major links between cannabis consumption and other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and psychosis.

Although cannabis isn’t a physically addictive substance, it is psychologically addictive. This means that an individual with diagnosed depression could begin to feel very intense cravings and negative feelings when they can’t access their desired dose of cannabis.

The withdrawal effects of cannabis are irritability, strong cravings, insomnia, restlessness, and mood swings. For people with depression, this can make them feel very unwell.

Although regular cannabis use is linked to increased feelings of depression and suicide, the link between cannabis and mental health disorders is still not completely understood.

Whilst some studies suggest cannabis use can lead to the development of psychosis and schizophrenia, this is not confirmed. Not everyone who uses cannabis will experience these disorders and not everyone with a diagnosis will have used cannabis.

The studies published concerning the relationship between cannabis use and mental health disorders show an undeniable link and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts in those with pre-diagnosed depression. [4]

What is dual diagnosis treatment and how can it help?

Two people holding hands across a table

Dual diagnosis is the term used to describe when a person is facing both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder.

The term was originally coined in the 1980s and has been used in the field of addiction treatment ever since.

Another name for dual diagnosis is co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are very common in those that experience addiction. This is because many people begin to use cannabis as a way to cope with symptoms of a mental health disorder.

Because the symptoms of a substance use disorder and mental health disorder are very closely intertwined, it can be difficult for professionals to give an accurate diagnosis.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we believe it is incredibly important to accurately diagnose separate disorders as it can reduce the risk of relapse and increase long-term sobriety.

Whilst a dual diagnosis can be challenging to deal with, visiting a residential rehabilitation treatment facility can ensure you gain access to bespoke treatment for both your addiction and your mental health.

By opting for private treatment, you can rest assured that your dual diagnosis will be treated accurately and safely at all times. Residential treatment is also deemed the most effective form of addiction treatment.

If you are interested in beginning treatment for your cannabis addiction, call us today on 0800 140 4690.

References

[1] Associations of Suicidality Trends With Cannabis Use as a Function of Sex and Depression Status https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2781215

[2] Cannabis use and suicidal ideation https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016762961300009X

[3] Effects of Cannabis on the Adolescent Brain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930618/

[4] Cannabis and Depression https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33332004/

Related posts