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Monday, 12 May 2008 03:01

Marijuana and depression a bad mix with teens

On Wednesday, May 9, 2008, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the report “"Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression: An Analysis of Recent Data Shows 'Self-Medicating' Could Actually Make Things Worse.”

The full pdf report can be accessed at “Marijuana, Depression, and Teen.”

The Report states that marijuana use in teenagers can make depression worse.

According to the ONDCP, about 2.3 million children in the United States use marijuana at least once a month.

According to conclusions within the Report, two million teenagers felt depressed at least once in 2007 and, depression in teenagers means that they are over twice as likely (25%) to have used marijuana as non-depressed teens (12%).

Besides increasing the risk from depression, marijuana use in teenagers also increases by 40% (over non-marijuana teen users) the chance of getting other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and anxiety.

The Report also stated that depressed teenagers that use marijuana are over twice as likely (8% as compared to 3%) to abuse or become dependent on marijuana when compared to non-depressed teenager that do not use marijuana.

Please read on for more conclusions of the ONDCP report, and what the Director of the ONDCP recommends to parents of teenagers.

Three other conclusions of the Report include:

1. Teenagers that use marijuana at least once per month for at least one year are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than non-users.

2. Teenage girls who use marijuana daily are more likely to develop depression than female teen that do not use marijuana.

3. Depressed teenagers are also more likely than non-depressed teens to engage in other risky behaviors such as the regular use of cigarettes on a daily basis and the use of large amounts of alcohol.

Director of the White House ODCP John P. Walters states, "Marijuana is not safe and it's not a solution for depression.” [WebMD: “White House Warns of Pot-Depression Link”]

Walters also said, "Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years. This is not just youthful experimentation that they'll get over as we used to think in the past." [Washington Post: “Marijuana Linked to Teen Mental Health Problems”]

The White House ONDCP report also cautions parents of teenagers to pay special attention to their children’s behaviors and mood swings, especially when marijuana and other illegal drugs could be involved.

In fact, the Report begins by stating:

“Millions of American teens report experiencing weeks of hopelessness and loss of interest in normal daily activities, and many of these depressed teens are making the problem worse by using marijuana and other drugs. Some teens use marijuana to relieve the symptoms of depression (“self-medicate”), wrongly believing it may alleviate these depressed feelings. In surveys, teens often report using marijuana and other drugs not only to relieve symptoms of depression, but also to “feel good,” or “feel better,” to relieve stress, and help them cope.”

“However, recent studies show that marijuana and depression are a dangerous combination. In fact, using marijuana can worsen depression and lead to more serious mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, anxiety, and even suicide.”

In ends with a cautionary note to parents:

“Parents should not dismiss changes in their teen’s behavior as a “phase.” Their teen could be depressed, using drugs – or both. Parents can help their teen understand the risks of marijuana use, and should be on the lookout for signs of depression."

"It’s been shown that parents who make an effort to understand the pressures and influences on young people are more likely to keep their teen healthy and drug-free.”

“Teens who report having conversations with their parents about alcohol and drug use are more likely to stay drug-free, compared to teens who do not talk about substance abuse with their parents.”

For additional information, it is recommended that parents and teenagers read the White House ONDCP report. The full pdf report can be accessed at “Marijuana, Depression, and Teen.”

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