SEP 20, 2023 2:15 PM PDT

Depression and Anxiety Skyrocket in Cannabis and Tobacco Dual Users, New UCSF Research Finds

A recent study published in the online journal PLOS ONE examines the risk of depression and anxiety for adults who use cannabis and tobacco compared to those who don’t. This study comes as cannabis legalization continues to widen across the United States and holds the potential to help scientists, legislators, and the public better understand the link between cannabis and mental health, which includes making better informed decisions pertaining to more impactful preventive and remedy options for users of both products.

“We provide mental health treatment, but it’s not linked with support for cannabis and tobacco cessation,” said Dr. Nhung Nguyen, who is lead author of the study. “We cannot provide tobacco cessation without addressing mental health or without considering cannabis use. These comorbidities are closely linked to tobacco use.”

For the study, the researchers performed a comparative analysis between data obtained from the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study, which was an online survey between March 2020 and April 2022, and monthly mental health evaluations from the survey participants. The survey was comprised of responses from 53,843 American adults (ages 18 and over) regarding their cannabis and tobacco use during a 30-day period, along with providing monthly mental health evaluations, as well.

In the end, the researchers discovered that individuals who use both cannabis and tobacco products are at a greater risk of experiencing depression and anxiety. For individuals who reported using both cannabis and tobacco, 26.5 percent of respondents divulged cases of anxiety while 28.3 percent of respondents divulged cases of depression. This contrasts with individuals who didn’t use either cannabis or tobacco, with 10.6 percent and 11.2 percent of respondents divulging cases of anxiety and depression, respectively. Despite these findings, one aspect the study did not explore is the link between cannabis and tobacco use and triggering or worsening mental health conditions.

"Some believe that cannabis might mitigate against the ill effects of tobacco,” said Dr. Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, who is a co-author on the study. “But these data suggest the combination is particularly harmful to mental health.”

What new discoveries will researchers make about the link between cannabis and tobacco use and mental health in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: PLOS ONE, EurekAlert!, UCSF, UCSF (1), UCSF (2) 

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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