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Research Links Marijuana, Suicidal Behavior Among Young Adults

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- New research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse says young adults who use marijuana appear to have an increased risk of suicidal behavior. The results of the study were released on Tuesday.

Medical and recreational use of marijuana is growing with the escalating number of states approving legislation. Doctors say while pot can be beneficial for some, it can be harmful to others.

Marijuana use is associated with suicidal behavior, according to new research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The research covered 280,000 young adults between the ages of 18 to 35.

"The effects were quite large," NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow said.

Volkow, who led the study, said it found suicidal behavior in 3% of people who don't use pot, 7-9% with occasional and daily use, and 14% of people who are addicted to marijuana have suicidal thoughts and behavior.

"We also found the effects are significantly larger for women than for men," Volkow said.

It's unclear exactly why women are more at risk. It could be different hormones and brain mechanisms. Also, people who are severely depressed and use pot are at the highest risk of suicidal behavior.

"I think it is a very important concern," Dr. Volkow said.

Cannabis use has more than doubled from 22.6 million users in 2008 to 45.0 million in 2019, and the number of daily users almost tripled from 3.6 million to 9.8 million.

"We also are seeing an increase in the amount of marijuana being consumed, so it's not just more people consuming it," Volkow said.

The study, conducted before the pandemic, found an association between cannabis use and suicide, but the cause is unclear.

Researchers say it could be people prone to suicide use cannabis or the drug. There could also be a genetic link.

With rates of depression increasing, doctors say more research is needed to fully understand the link between marijuana use and suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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