Addiction is a mental health condition that often occurs with another disorder, such as depression or anxiety. When two conditions coincide, a patient is said to have a co-occurring disorder. It’s crucial that the addiction and co-occurring disorder (otherwise known as a dual diagnosis) receive treatment at the same time; concurrent therapy improves a patient’s ability to achieve long-term recovery.
Although treatable, there is much still unknown about mental health conditions; why they occur in specific people at certain times in their life. Substance use disorder is a disease that develops over time, whereas anxiety or depression can seem like it sprung out of nowhere. There are times when one’s addiction predates their co-occurring disorder and other instances when the reverse is the case.
Untreated anxiety can lead individuals down a path of desperate measures to find relief. Common symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, poor concentration, or trembling. A desire to calm such symptoms is only natural, and mind-altering substances sometimes help accomplish that task, at first. Interestingly, people who meet the criteria for anxiety disorder often use marijuana. The link persists despite the fact that cannabis use has been known to cause paranoia. Nevertheless, a large contingent of people with anxiety disorders uses cannabis regularly.
Problematic Marijuana Use and Childhood Anxiety
A team of researchers from Duke Health studied the link between childhood anxiety and problematic cannabis use, according to a press release. Using data from 1,229 participants in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, the research team tracked participants’ patterns of cannabis use from the college years (ages 19-21) into adulthood (ages 26-30). The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Of the participants, 7 percent were persistent users, limited users (13 percent), and delayed users (4 percent). Persistent users could have started using “pot” at the age of 9, using the drug significantly into their early 30’s, the article reports. The researchers found that 27 percent of persistent users had anxiety disorders when they were children.
“This suggests that a focus on mental health and well-being could go a long way to prevent the most problematic use,” said lead author Sherika Hill, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty associate at the Duke University School of Medicine.
Aiming Prevention Efforts
Substance use prevention efforts have long focused on adolescents, but the research indicates that adults deserve attention, too. It’s unclear why somebody with an anxiety disorder would begin using marijuana problematically for the first time in adulthood, but a small group of people does. As cannabis laws ease, adults without any history of marijuana use may turn to the drug. Substance use is not a treatment for mental illness; marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to addiction—often requiring help. Hill said:
“A lot of current interventions and policies in the U.S. are aimed at early adolescent users. We have to start thinking about how we are going to address problematic use that may arise in a growing population of older users.”
If you suffer from anxiety and are using marijuana problematically, please contact Synergy Group Services.
Marijuana is a popular drug in the United States, indicative by the fact that it is the most used illicit narcotic in this country. As of late, discussions about drugs have been geared towards prescription opioids and heroin—in light of the ongoing epidemic. Yet, it is worth keeping in mind that while marijuana is a far cry from opioids, it is still a drug that can have negative effects on one’s health and lead to addiction. The demographic of greatest concern is young people, especially adolescents.
In the science community, it is widely held that teenage cannabis use can have a serious impact on the brain. This is due to the fact that the brain of adolescents is still developing. While preventing teens from using cannabis is a top concern, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in the last year, marijuana was used by:
- Roughly 6.5 Percent of Eighth-Graders
- 14.8 percent of 10th-Graders
- 21.3 Percent of 12th-Graders
NIDA’s findings indicate that cannabis prevention measures need to start much earlier. But when? A team of researchers from the University of Florida (UF) took it upon themselves to pinpoint when teens are most like to begin using cannabis, MNT reports. Their findings could increase the success of preventative measures in the future. The research was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
The findings of the study, led by Dr. Xinguang Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UF, showed that adolescents are at risk of initiating cannabis use by the age of 11, according to the article. The risk of using cannabis peaks at the age of 16. The researchers determined those ages by looking at data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey involved 26,659 adolescents and young adults—ages 12 to 21.
“Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade,” said Dr. Xinguang Chen. “This gives us an opportunity to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”
At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating addiction, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.