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Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions and Symptoms Among Emerging Adult Cannabis Consumers Compared to Non-Consumers: Preliminary Results from the Herbal Heart Study

Alexandria Cashman
University of Miami

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

Background: As cannabis legalization, normalization, and its use expands, the incidence rates of mental health conditions and symptoms in young adults, a population with a relatively higher prevalence of cannabis use, has been on rise.  Understanding the mental health implications of cannabis consumption in the younger population is crucial as this milestone is critical for brain development and emotional regulation. The study aims to shed light on the varied manifestations of mental health symptoms, including heightened sensitivity, stress, irritability, racing thoughts, and mood swings among cannabis consumers and non-consumers.

Methods: The data analyzed are from an ongoing Herbal Heart Study cohort of young adults aged 18-35, to examine the impacts of cannabinoids and diverse cannabis consumption methods on subclinical cardiovascular risk. Cannabis use was self-reported and further confirmed by rapid urine drug screening during enrollment. Participants underwent a comprehensive mental health review using standardized measures, reporting any experienced mental health-related conditions or symptoms within the preceding 30 days. Prevalence of the conditions and/or symptoms were compared between cannabis users (CUs) and non-users (NUs). Descriptive statistics were computed and Chi-squared/Fisher’s exact tests where appropriate were conducted using SAS Analytics with a two-tailed alpha set to 0.05.

Results: In the overall sample of 150 young adults, mean age was 26.4 years (SD=4.5), 66.7% were female, 51.3% Hispanic/Latino and 50.7% cannabis users. 20% reported experiencing depression, with a significant difference noted between CUs at 30.3% and NUs at 9.5% (p<0.01). Anxiety was reported by 35.3% of the sample, predominantly among CUs (48.7%) compared to NUs (21.6%, p<.001). While 14.7% reported excessive worries overall, no significant difference was found between CUs and NUs (p=0.188). Significant differences in sensitivity were observed between CUs and NUs (15.8% vs 4.0%, p=0.017). Stress was reported by 42.7% of young adults overall, with no significant difference in prevalence between the two groups (p=0.602). Irritability was more prevalent among CUs (26.3% vs 8.1%, p<.01). Additionally, racing thoughts were reported by 21.0% of CUs compared to 5.4% of NUs (p < .01), and mood swings were noted in 14.5% of CUs versus 4.0% of NUs (p=0.028).

Conclusion: Notably, higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, irritability, racing thoughts, and mood swings were observed among cannabis users than non users, highlighting the need for targeted interventions addressing the mental health implications of cannabis consumption in this demographic.