Science chat: Dissecting the new study on cannabis abuse and depression

Published on July 14, 2023
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)

Millions of people worldwide use cannabis to treat mood issues as legalization continues to spread.

People smoke pot to reduce anxiety, and depression, and many have found lifesaving relief. Considering its status as an effective neuro-modulator, it’s no surprise that people experiencing nervous system dysregulation seek out cannabis for its many effects. But cannabis’ ability to help also exists alongside its potential for misuse, and potential to cause harm.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a column under the headline “Cannabis is linked to mental illness” that referenced a paper published this May in JAMA Psychiatry: The study concluded that patients diagnosed with cannabis use disorder (CUD) had a higher than average likelihood of a subsequent diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder.

The study authors acknowledge, however, that correlation may not equal causation. And the study has had to contend with what’s called ‘detection bias’ in its focus population.

Leafly’s Director of Science and Innovation, Nick Jikomes Ph.D., as well as Leafly health and science correspondent Emily Earlenbaugh Ph.D., explain what the study says—and does not say—and offer some crucial missing context in the half-hour discussion, below. Click on the video to tune in.

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David Downs
David Downs
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs is the former Cannabis Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He's appeared on The Today Show, and written for Scientific American, The New York Times, WIRED, Rolling Stone, The Onion A/V Club, High Times, and many more outlets. He is a 2023 judge for The Emerald Cup, and has covered weed since 2009.
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