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Correlation Between Anxiety, Depression, and Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Young Adult Cannabis Consumers and Non- Consumers in South Florida: Preliminary Findings from the Herbal Heart Study

Anurag Aka
University of Miami

Co-Authors: Amrit Baral1, Yash Agrawal1, Ranya Marrakchi El Fellah1, Bria-Necole A Diggs1, Sarah Messiah2, Joseph De Santis1, Raul Gonzalez3, Barry Hurwitz1, Claudia Martinez1, Denise C Vidot1
1University of Miami, 2University of Texas, 3Florida International University

Background: Many individuals, especially young adults aged 18-35 years, seek to utilize substances including cannabis as a means of self-treatment and coping. Understanding the complex interplay between mental health disorders and adverse childhood outcomes (ACEs) is critical for effective intervention and support strategies. Therefore, our study aims are to explore the association between cannabis use and mental health outcomes among those who have experienced ACEs.

Methods: Data comes from an ongoing Herbal Heart Study cohort investigating the effects of cannabinoids and various routes of cannabis consumption on subclinical cardiovascular risk among 18-35 years old young adults in South Florida. Anxiety and depression were assessed by the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) respectively. ACEs were assessed via the 11-item ACEs questionnaire. Correlation analysis was performed using Pearson’s correlation coefficient in R (v4.2.2) to estimate the correlation of anxiety and depression with total ACEs overall and among cannabis consumers (CB+), and non-consumers (CB-).

Results: Of the total study participants (N=150) [mean age: 24.6y (SD=4.5)], 66.7% were female, 51.3% identified as Hispanic, and 50.7% were CB+. In the overall sample, there was a moderately positive correlation between anxiety (r=0.30, p<0.001) and depression (r=0.31, p<0.001) with ACEs. For CB+, a weak positive correlation (r=0.23, p=0.04) was observed between anxiety and ACE scores, suggesting a proportional increase in anxiety with higher ACEs scores. Similarly, CB- exhibited a moderate positive correlation (r=0.31, p<0.01) between total anxiety and ACE scores, indicating a stronger relationship compared to CB+. A notably stronger positive correlation (r=0.42, p<0.001 was identified between total depression and ACE scores among CB+, suggesting a more pronounced impact on depression in this group.

Conclusion: Results showed a proportional increase in anxiety with higher adverse childhood experiences among CB+ and CB-. However, CB+ had a strong positive correlation between depression and ACEs, while CB- had no statistically significant correlation. Further research could explore the underlying reasons for the differences in the correlation between anxiety/depression and ACEs among CB+ and CB-. Additionally, interventions tailored to address mental health needs of individuals with ACEs could be developed.