Teen marijuana, alcohol & nicotine use tied to increased risk for mental health disorders

High school students who report using marijuana, alcohol, or nicotine are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, including suicidal thoughts. That’s according to new research published in JAMA Pediatrics.

During the study, researchers surveyed more than 15,000 high school students across Massachusetts.

“With increasing rates of adolescent mental health–related problems, particularly suicide, clarification on these issues is needed to inform screening, prevention and intervention, and policy,” researchers wrote.

Of particular concern, researchers found that high schoolers who used substances daily or near-daily were approximately five times more likely to suffer suicidal thoughts. They also experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, psychotic experiences, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms. These increases were detected even among adolescents with relatively low levels of use.

“They lend strong support for the notion that screening, prevention, intervention and policy efforts need to comprehensively address targets beyond substance use alone,” said lead author Brenden Tervo-Clemmens in a press release. “Also, these efforts may not need to necessarily be specific to a given substance, but rather reflect the multifaceted mental health needs of all adolescents who use substances.”