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Influence of Cannabis Use Disorder Symptoms on Suicidal Ideation in College Students

Previous research has shown that suicidal ideation and cannabis have shared risk factors. Along with this, some studies have found associations between them while other have found no associations. The current study attempts to look at cannabis use and suicidal ideation in college students while controlling for main psychopathological confounders and examining possible medication effects.

The study included 1034 participants with an age range of 18-30 years. To collect the data, researchers created an online survey with self-report questionnaires. They used the Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test-Revised survey to assess cannabis use and suicidal ideation was assessed using a scale of 0-3 ranking three items (“I felt life was not worth living”, “I felt like hurting myself”, “I felt like killing myself”). The researchers also assessed depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, borderline personality traits, and alcohol use. They found 32% of students had used cannabis during the previous 6 months and that of those people, 22% had possible severe cases of cannabis use disorder. Overall, females reported less cannabis use than males.

The percentages for suicidal ideations were 13% in female users, 7% in male users, 10% in female non-users, and 11% in male non-users. This shows there were no real statistical differences in cannabis users and non-users. They did find that level of symptoms of cannabis use disorder was associated with suicidal ideation, but this association was eliminated when controlled for depressive symptoms. This may show that cannabis misuse may lead to depressive symptoms and borderline traits which may increase suicidal ideation. Future research should look at mediation effects and how the influence of cannabis use on suicidality are potentially being covered up by these effects. Interventions for cannabis misuse in young adults should be sensitive to the potential that individuals may also have depressive symptoms and suicidal ideations.

Take Away: Research has shown suicidal ideation and cannabis have shared risk factors but have shown different results on associations between the two. The current study surveyed 1034 young adults to look at cannabis use and suicidal ideations while controlling for main psychopathological confounders. They found that 32% of the students had used cannabis in the previous 6 months and that there were no real statistical differences in cannabis users and non-users. However, they found cannabis misuse may lead to depressive symptoms and borderline traits. Future research should look at mediation effects and interventions for cannabis misuse in young adults should be sensitive to the potential that individuals may have depressive symptoms and suicidal ideations.

Chabrol, H., Chassagne, J., Henry, L., & Raynal, P. (2020). Influence of Cannabis Use Disorder Symptoms on Suicidal Ideation in College Students. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. doi: 10.1007/s11469-019-00201-2

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