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Changes in cannabis use among young people: impact on mental health

Copeland, Jana; Rooke, Sallya; Swift, Wendyb

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: July 2013 - Volume 26 - Issue 4 - p 325–329
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e328361eae5
ADDICTIVE DISORDERS: Edited by John B. Saunders and Linda B. Cottler

Purpose of review The aim of this review was to examine current trends in cannabis use and cannabis use disorder (CUD) among youth, and to investigate recent findings concerning the relationship between cannabis use and mental health concerns, with a focus on how use during adolescence may interact with related mental health disorders.

Recent findings Current data indicate that cannabis use among adolescents has shown both marginal increases and decreases, depending on global location; however, the profile of cannabinoids in cannabis may now be biased toward those that promote psychotogenic and memory-impairing effects. CUD has been found most prevalent among youth. After controlling for multiple confounders, longitudinal research suggests that cannabis use predicts the development of anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, certain personality disorders, and interpersonal violence. Further, associations have been found stronger in adolescents relative to adults, and younger age of initiation increases the risk of developing mental health disorders.

Summary Cannabis use among youth remains prevalent, and recent studies are consolidating previous findings that adolescents are especially vulnerable to mental health disorders associated with cannabis. This suggests that cannabis involvement requires increased prominence in research, prevention initiatives, routine screening, and interventions to improve adolescent mental health.

aNational Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre

bNational Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Correspondence to Professor Jan Copeland, National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 293850231; e-mail:

© 2013 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins