A recent study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco has revealed that individuals who use both cannabis and tobacco have significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to those who use either substance alone or are non-users. The study, published in the online journal PLOS ONE, aimed to examine the relationship between mental health and the concurrent use of these substances, considering the expanding legalization of cannabis products.
Previous studies on this subject primarily relied on data collected prior to the trend of cannabis legalization, emphasizing the need for updated analysis. Understanding the association between the use of both cannabis and tobacco and mental health is crucial in developing more effective prevention and treatment strategies.
Dr. Nhung Nguyen, the lead author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, emphasized the interconnection between mental health, tobacco use, and cannabis use. Addressing these comorbidities requires considering mental health support and cessation strategies for both substances.
To conduct the study, the researchers utilized the COVID-19 Citizen Science Study, a mobile app developed by UCSF researchers. The data collected from 53,843 American participants between March 2020 and April 2022 provided valuable insights into mental health status and substance use. The researchers analyzed responses in relation to tobacco and cannabis use over a 30-day period and paired this with monthly assessments of participants’ mental health.
Among the respondents who reported using both substances, 26.5% experienced anxiety and 28.3% reported depression. In contrast, individuals who used neither substance had anxiety and depression rates of only 10.6% and 11.2%, respectively. Additionally, those who exclusively used tobacco displayed higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to non-users.
The study did not investigate whether mental health conditions were triggered or exacerbated by cannabis or tobacco use, or vice versa. However, the findings highlight the potential harmful effects associated with dual use. Despite some beliefs that cannabis might counteract the negative effects of tobacco, the data from this study suggest that the combination is particularly detrimental to mental health.
This research underscores the importance of considering the mental health implications of dual cannabis and tobacco use. By understanding the relationship between these substances and mental health, more comprehensive prevention and treatment options can be developed to support individuals in managing these comorbidities effectively.
Nguyen, N., et al. (2023). Associations between tobacco and cannabis use and anxiety and depression among adults in the United States: Findings from the COVID-19 citizen science study. PLOS ONE. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0289058.