Surge in cannabis-related psychiatric disorders: Unveiling the growing concern

As the prevalence of cannabis use grows among Americans, healthcare professionals are observing a rise in cannabis-related mental health issues. Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that marijuana use constitutes 10% of all drug-related emergency room visits in the United States. In 2021, nearly one in five Americans aged 12 and older used marijuana, and more than 16 million people suffered from cannabis use disorder—a persistent use of cannabis despite significant negative impacts on life and health. Particularly concerning is the high prevalence of cannabis use disorder among young adults, affecting 14% of those aged 18 to 25.

“There is a lot of misinformation in the public sphere about cannabis and its effects on psychological health, with many assuming that this drug is safe to use with no side effects,” Dr. David Gorelick, a UMSOM professor of psychiatry who wrote the review article, said in a university news release.

Cannabis use disorder is most prevalent in people who use marijuana more than four days a week, along with suffer from another substance use disorder or other psychiatric condition.

“Almost 50 percent of people with cannabis use disorder have another psychiatric condition such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder,” Gorelick said. “It’s vital that patients seek the right psychiatric treatment to address their risk factors.”

Researchers identify seven recognized disorders related to cannabis use, including cannabis-induced anxiety disorder, cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, cannabis-induced sleep disorder, and cannabis-induced delirium. Additionally, heavy cannabis use is associated with a 30% to 40% increased risk of a car crash, posing further health risks.