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Study links tobacco and marijuana use to higher risk of depression and anxiety

Researchers from the University of California have found that the use of both tobacco and marijuana can significantly increase the risk of depression and anxiety. 

The study looked at the data of 53,843 adults who participated in online surveys between 2020 and 2022. The scientists learned that 26.5% of those who used both tobacco and marijuana suffered from anxiety, while 28.3% reported being depressed.

For those who didn’t use either marijuana or tobacco, researchers found that less than 12% experienced depression or anxiety.

The study further concluded that the odds of experiencing these mental health issues was roughly 80% greater for those who used marijuana and tobacco, compared to those who didn’t use them at all.

Providing treatment is imperative

With tobacco and marijuana use growing exponentially, the team believes it is important to address the issue and provide suitable prevention and treatment measures for individuals suffering from these illnesses.

According to the lead researcher, Nhung Nguyen, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, stopping patients from using both marijuana and tobacco will be a good first step during treatment.

“Smoking weed and tobacco does not help to deal with anxiety and depression, and may exacerbate mental health issues in the long run. Coordinating tobacco and cannabis cessation with mental health treatment may be beneficial for people with co-use of tobacco and cannabis. In addition, screening for use of tobacco and cannabis should be implemented in mental health treatment settings,” Nguyen said.

More research needed on marijuana use

While the researchers were able to derive a conclusion from the study, Nguyen admits that the link between these substances and human health is not fully understood and there will be need for more research. 

Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a primary care physician and cannabis specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, also said the relationship is not clear enough. Some patients have successfully treated their mental illnesses with cannabis, though the same cannot be said for tobacco.

“The Achilles heel of this entire type of study is that correlation is not causation. I treat a lot of people who treat their anxiety and depression with cannabis and it’s very successful. I generally think tobacco doesn’t make anything better. But we also don’t know if it makes your depression and your anxiety worse,” Grinspoon said.

The report was published online Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

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