Rates of Marijuana Use Rising in Teens with Depression

depression and marijuana use

Rates of Marijuana Use Rising in Teens with Depression

Overall, the prevalence of cannabis use disorder has decreased over the last decade among frequent users, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As the perceived risk of smoking marijuana has decreased, teens struggling with depression are actually more likely to turn to substance use to cope, even if fewer of their peers may be making the same decisions. Changing attitudes towards marijuana use may undermine the potential long-term effects of frequent smoking. If your depressed teen is smoking weed frequently, they may not just be using it recreationally and may benefit from talking about why they are smoking so much.

Do Depressed Teens Smoke More Than Other Teens?

The results of another survey suggest that certain groups appeared more vulnerable to using marijuana. It is estimated that teens who use substances are 50% more likely to struggle with mental health issues and that teens who struggle with mental health issues use larger amounts of substances more frequently than those who don’t.

For instance, nearly one-third of young adults (29.7%) aged 18-25 with depression reported past 30-day use, which is almost double the number of young adults without depression. Daily cannabis use was common among 6.7% of those with depression and among 2.9% of those without. With such stark differences between these groups, the relationship between marijuana use and depression warrants further exploration. 

Are They More Likely to Use to Cope?

Many teens turn to substances to self-medicate undiagnosed mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. As medication is one of the most common forms of treatment for many mental health issues, it can influence teens’ attitudes towards prescription pill use and other drugs. By taking medication, teens learn substances are an effective way to change the way they feel and cope with negative emotions. Many teens may choose to smoke marijuana to numb negative emotions they may be experiencing or to help them cope with anxiety in social situations. 

Or Are They More Vulnerable to Consequences of Substance Use?

Teens who struggle with mental health issues are more likely to become emotionally dependent on substances, which can be a barrier to stopping substance use. While detox may help teens who have become physically dependent on a drug, teens who use substances for emotional reasons may still be motivated to continue smoking if they have not addressed the reasons why they turned to it in the first place. Teens with depression may also be less likely to care about the potential consequences of smoking on their health or their relationships as they struggle to value these things in their lives. As a result, they may make riskier decisions when it comes to accessing substances or using substances. Some may care less about hiding their substance use from others, which can contribute to treatment resistance and continued use despite consequences.

“People should never use substances when their mind is still developing,” says Jennifer Young APRN, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at ViewPoint Center. “There is no way to know if using substances will cause a teen to take off on a path they can’t be reined back from.”

Substance Use Treatment Options

Addressing substance use challenges with an integrated approach, ViewPoint Center focuses on the mental health issues teens face, in conjunction with targeted treatment planning based on the individual needs of each patient:

  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Psychoeducation about substance use and consequences
  • Family therapy to address relationship and communication issues

ViewPoint Center Can Help 

ViewPoint Center, a teen mental health hospital for teens ages 12-17, helps teens with depression dealing with substance use. At ViewPoint Center, we provide superior assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and stabilization–all in a personalized environment for your child in crisis. We have years of experience working with students with dual diagnoses, acknowledging the overlap, and differentiating between underlying issues and behavioral problems.

For more information about how ViewPoint Center can help your teen struggling with depression and substance use, please call 801-825-5222.


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