The Link Between Marijuana Use and Teenage Mental Health: Insights from Recent Research

By Dr. Raymond Zakhari, NP

As parents and caregivers, it is important to stay informed about the potential risks associated with teenage marijuana use. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) sheds light on the impact of recreational cannabis use on the mental health of adolescents. The findings are concerning, highlighting a higher likelihood of depression, suicidal thoughts, and other related issues among teenagers who engage in cannabis consumption.

The Study

The study, conducted by researchers who analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, included a staggering 68,000 teenagers. The results revealed that recreational marijuana use can have profound effects on adolescent mental health. Those who engaged in cannabis consumption for recreational purposes were found to be 2 to 3 times more likely to experience depression and have suicidal thoughts compared to non-users. Furthermore, teenagers diagnosed with cannabis use disorder, characterized by an inability to quit using despite negative consequences, were shown to be 4 times more likely to face similar mental health challenges.

Implications Beyond Mental Health

The impact of marijuana use on teenagers extends beyond mental health concerns. The study also revealed that cannabis use was linked to academic underachievement, school absenteeism, and increased encounters with law enforcement. These findings highlight the importance of addressing the misconceptions surrounding marijuana’s safety, particularly among young individuals who may perceive it as a harmless recreational activity.

Expert Insights

The lead author of the study, Dr. Ryan Sultan, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, expressed his surprise at the elevated risk of mental health issues among recreational users. Traditionally, recreational marijuana use was not considered concerning; however, this study challenges that notion. Dr. Sultan emphasizes the need for open conversations between parents and their children about marijuana use, depression, and anxiety, enabling families to better navigate potential risks.

Understanding the Feedback Loop

While the study did not provide a direct explanation for the link between cannabis use and mental health problems, Dr. Sultan suggests that the more marijuana is used, the more it negatively impacts cognitive function. This downward spiral can lead to an increased likelihood of depression and suicidal thoughts, creating a concerning feedback loop. As Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, this feedback loop raises significant concerns, emphasizing the importance of addressing teenage marijuana use from a mental health perspective.


As an integrated medical and psychiatric practice dedicated to the well-being of families, it is crucial to educate parents and teenagers alike about the risks associated with recreational marijuana use. The findings from this recent study highlight the potential detrimental effects on mental health, academic performance, and overall well-being. Engaging in open conversations with teenagers about marijuana, depression, and anxiety is essential to help them make informed choices and seek appropriate support when needed.

Remember, as parents and caregivers, you play a vital role in guiding and supporting your teenager’s mental health journey. By staying informed, fostering dialogue, and seeking professional guidance, you can help ensure a safe and nurturing environment for their overall well-being.

Here are some additional tips for parents and caregivers who are concerned about teenage marijuana use:

  • Talk to your teenager about marijuana use. Explain the potential risks to their mental health and overall well-being.
  • Monitor your teenager’s behavior and look for signs of marijuana use. These signs may include changes in mood, sleep patterns, and academic performance.
  • If you suspect that your teenager is using marijuana, talk to them about your concerns. Offer your support and help them find resources to get help.
  • If you are concerned about your teenager’s mental health, please seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess your teenager’s needs and develop a treatment plan.
  • If you as the parent are using marijuana there is a much higher likelihood of your teen using it, consider getting help yourself.