- Researchers report that cannabis emergency room visits may be linked to anxiety diagnoses.
- They say men and younger people who used cannabis may be at higher risk of anxiety.
- There remains a debate over whether cannabis causes anxiety or can be used to remedy the condition.
Researchers report that 27% of people who went to an emergency department for cannabis use developed a new anxiety disorder within three years.
The Canadian research team said their research was published in the journal Electronic medicine is the largest study examining the relationship between anxiety and cannabis use.
Researchers looked at more than 12 million people who lived in Ontario, Canada, between 2008 and 2019, none of whom had received treatment or a diagnosis for anxiety.
The team examined data from medical records and compared the risk of developing an anxiety disorder among those who presented to an emergency due to cannabis use compared to the general population.
“Our results suggest that people who required emergency department treatment for cannabis use were at substantially increased risk of developing a new anxiety disorder and experiencing worsening symptoms of existing anxiety disorders,” he said. Dr. Daniel Myrán, lead author of the study and Canada Research Chair in Social Responsibility at the University of Ottawa, adjunct scientist at International Cultural Exchange Services, a researcher at the Bruyère Research Institute and a clinical researcher at The Ottawa Hospital, in a statement.
The researchers said they found that 27% of people who presented to an emergency department for cannabis use were diagnosed with a new anxiety disorder within three years, compared with 5% of the general population, an increase of almost four times after taking into account social factors. and other mental health diagnoses.
They said that of those already diagnosed, 12% of people who went to an emergency room for cannabis use were hospitalized or visited an emergency room again for an anxiety disorder within three years, compared to the 1% of the general population (another almost 4-fold increase). risk after taking into account other mental health diagnoses and social factors.
In people who visited an emergency room with cannabis as the primary reason, the risk of hospitalization or another emergency visit for an anxiety disorder increased more than 9 times compared to the general population.
The researchers also reported that women, men, and people of all ages who presented to an emergency room for cannabis use were at elevated risk of developing new anxiety disorders relative to the general population, with men and women Younger adults (10 to 24 years old) are at particularly high risk. risk.
The scientists acknowledged that there is an ongoing debate about whether cannabis actually causes people to develop anxiety or whether their cannabis use reflects an already existing condition for which they are medicating.
However, the researchers said their study indicated that cannabis may worsen anxiety. They also said it’s possible that cannabis could delay other evidence-based treatments and substantially worsen anxiety symptoms.
“Cannabis use has increased rapidly in Canada over the past 15 years and there is a general feeling that cannabis is relatively harmless or has health benefits,” Myran said. “Our study warns that in some people, excessive cannabis use may increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders.”
Daniele PiomelliPhD, director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at UC Irvine in California, who was not involved in the study, said Medical news today that the effects of cannabis on people have never been a one-size-fits-all proposition.
“Cannabis can have both anxiolytic and proanxiolytic effects, depending on the dose (and) the experience with the drug,” Piomelli said. “We have known about this double action for a long time. The anxiolytic effect has its origin in the protective functions of the endocannabinoid system, which participates exquisitely in coping with stress and curbing anxiety. “But we still don’t understand how cannabis can cause anxiety in vulnerable people.”
Piomelli added that cannabis is generally more potent now.
For example, the potency of THC in dried cannabis has increase from an average of 3% in the 1980s to around 15% today.
“You can even find cannabis products (oils, etc.) that contain more than 80% THC,” Piomelli said.
Ashley Murrysaid the clinical director of Sana Lake Recovery Center in Missouri, who was not involved in the study. Medical news today The link between anxiety and cannabis is interesting and “requires a delicate approach.”
“Research in this field is varied and has shown benefits and drawbacks,” Murry said. “Nowadays, most people have consumed CBD, a compound found in cannabis. Research has shown that CBD may offer anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties. “Many people have reported feeling calmer after using cannabis, although the effects vary depending on the type of product and individual response.”
But adding THC makes it a different product, Murry noted.
“On the other hand, THC acts as the psychoactive compound in cannabis and yet can increase anxiety symptoms in people, as THC can increase heart rate and induce paranoia,” he said. “If your only reason for using cannabis is to reduce or control your anxiety levels, it could lead to dependence and those with pre-existing anxiety disorders may be more susceptible to its adverse effects.”
“I would suggest that before using cannabis for any reason, it is best to consult with a health professional, especially for those who suffer from pre-existing conditions,” he said.
Dr. Sherry Yafai, an emergency physician at Saint John’s Physician Partners Urgent Care and adjunct assistant professor at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in California and a cannabis specialist, said the study did not take into account “obvious covariates in the group, i.e., use of other drugs and alcohol.”
“We are well aware that the use and abuse of alcohol, stimulants and opioids, to name a few, can contribute to a variety of health consequences, including anxiety,” said Yafai, who was not involved in the study. Medical news today. “This paper failed to eliminate these patients from the comparison, probably because they would not have been able to show any effects from cannabis use alone.”
Yafai added that anxiety is a common diagnosis that is “overlooked” during an emergency room visit, as doctors typically try to rule out life-threatening problems in that setting. He said that invalidates the use of the “general population” as a means of comparison.
“It should have been a comparison with… the global anxiety statistics and not with everyone who comes (to the emergency room), who most commonly present for things like strokes, heart attacks, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, for example. name a few. ” she said.
Yafai also said that a formal diagnosis of anxiety requires symptoms for at least six months, meaning people who attempted to self-medicate in the study would have been mislabeled.
“Perhaps what this article should highlight is that an (emergency department) presentation on cannabis use could give clinicians the opportunity to intervene in a positive way, to help patients with developing anxiety and guide them towards better practices of treatment”. she said. “Having those conversations can impact an individual’s life in a more meaningful way.”