UK study finds cannabis use may increase the risk of mental health problems

A past recorded history of cannabis consumption may indicate a higher risk of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, in addition to an increased risk of other mental illnesses, according to new research.


Released in Psychological Medicine, researchers at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Mental Health used data derived from the IQVIA Medical Research Database with records from 787 clinical practices in the United Kingdom.

The records were gathered within a 23-year span between 1995 and 2018. More than 28,000 patients with a history of cannabis use were included.

In the study, researchers uncovered a strong link between cannabis use and mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. Its use may also significantly increase the risk of psychotic disorders, however, more research is needed to fully affirm this.

“The research reaffirms the need to ensure a public health approach to recreational drug use continues to be adopted across the UK,” said one of the study’s authors in a news release.

“We must continue to progress measures to improve the prevention and detection of drug use as well as implement the appropriate supportive measures in an equitable manner to prevent the secondary negative health consequences.”

The findings caution the use of cannabis use in spite of its label as a relatively safe drug for medical therapy.

“Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken,” concluded Clara Humpston, the study’s senior author.

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