The Link Between Tobacco and Marijuana Co-Use and Poor Mental Health: New Study Reveals Alarming Findings

2023-09-18 13:01:00
The study did not determine causality, but the authors concluded that co-use of tobacco and cannabis is associated with poor mental health.

(HealthDay News) – Using tobacco and marijuana simultaneously is linked to significantly higher risks of depression and anxiety, a new study suggests. study.

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Among the nearly 54,000 American adults studied, researchers found that those who used both substances were almost twice as likely to experience anxiety or depression compared to non-users.

“Smoking weed and tobacco does not help cope with anxiety and depression, and can exacerbate long-term mental health problems,” said lead researcher Nhung Nguyen, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. More research on tobacco and cannabis use is needed to understand effective prevention and treatment efforts for this “emerging public health problem,” Nguyen added.

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Co-use of marijuana and tobacco is increasing nationally in the US as more states legalize cannabis, researchers said, suggesting this could set the stage for mental health problems.

Tobacco and cannabis are among the most consumed substances worldwide, and their combined consumption has increased with the increasing legalization of cannabis (Freepik)

“Coordinating tobacco and cannabis cessation with mental health treatment may be beneficial for people with tobacco and cannabis co-use,” Nguyen said. “In addition, screening for tobacco and cannabis use should be implemented in mental health treatment settings.”

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It is not clear why the combination of the two substances would cause depression and anxiety. “The interaction between tobacco and cannabis on health in general and mental health in particular is not fully understood,” Nguyen said.

Furthermore, this study could not prove that the combination of tobacco and marijuana causes depression and anxiety, but there may be an association between the two, the researchers warn.

Nguyen acknowledged that people prone to depression and anxiety might be drawn to tobacco and cannabis as a way to seek solace. “Current evidence supports both directions of the relationship between tobacco and cannabis use and depression and anxiety,” she said. “Evidence shows that tobacco or cannabis use contributes to anxiety/depression.”

Previous research also shows that people who chronically suffer from anxiety or depression may be attracted to weed and tobacco.

According to the study, the probability of suffering from anxiety and depression is 1.8 times higher among simultaneous users of marijuana and tobacco than among non-users (Europa Press)

For the study, which was published in the journal PLOS ONENguyen and colleagues collected data from 53,843 adults who participated in online surveys as part of the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study from 2020 to 2022.

When asked about substance use in the past month, 4.9% said they only used tobacco, 6.9% said they only used cannabis, and 1.6% said they used both.

The researchers found that among those who used both tobacco and cannabis, 26.5% reported anxiety and 28.3% reported depression. Among those who did not use any of the drugs, 10.6% reported anxiety and 11.2% reported depression. The likelihood of having these mental health problems was about 80% higher for those who used tobacco and cannabis, compared to those who used neither, according to the study.

Compared with people who used tobacco alone, those who used marijuana (both co-use and marijuana alone) were more likely to have anxiety, but not depression, the researchers said.

An expert not involved with the study believes that it is more likely that people who are depressed or suffer from anxiety self-medicate with these substances and not that these drugs are the causative agent of these conditions.

“The Achilles heel of this type of study is that correlation is not causation,” said Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Among nearly 54,000 American adults, those who used both substances experienced anxiety or depression at nearly twice the rate of non-users, the researchers found.

“It’s always seemed much more logical to me that people just self-medicate and treat their anxiety and depression,” he said. “I treat a lot of people who manage their anxiety and depression with cannabis and it’s very successful.”

As for tobacco, “I generally think that tobacco doesn’t improve anything,” Grinspoon said. “But we also don’t know if it makes your depression and anxiety worse.” However, he warned that too much cannabis can be harmful and result in paranoia or other mental problems.

Grinspoon also noted that the relationship between depression and anxiety among those who used tobacco and marijuana in the study was worse among lower-income participants.

Poorer people may have less access to mental health care and therefore be less likely to be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, he said.

“If your circumstances make you miserable, who wouldn’t be tempted to smoke or use cannabis?” Grinspoon said. “In a perfect world, we would all do yoga, eat tofu and meditate. But a lot of people have really challenging lives and are using these substances just to get through them.”

*Por Steven Reinberg. Health Day Reporters. Healthday Spanish

More information: The Alcohol and Drug Foundation of the United States has more information on the use of cannabis.

SOURCES: Nhung Nguyen, PhD, assistant professor, medicine, University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Peter Grinspoon, primary care physician and cannabis specialist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston; PLOS ONE, September 13, 2023, online.

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