Researchers link alcohol, cannabis and nicotine use with symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis and ADHD in US high-schoolers.
As of 2019, nearly a billion people were living with at least one mental disorder, including 14% of the world’s adolescents, according to data shared by the World Health Organization. This worrying situation has worsened with the pandemic, although it is still difficult to put a precise figure on its consequences.
At the same time, the health authority points out that alcohol and drug consumption among teenagers is also a cause for concern, with no fewer than 155 million young people aged 15-19 currently drinking.
“Alcohol and drug use in children and adolescents is associated with neurocognitive alterations which can lead to behavioural, emotional, social and academic problems in later life,” the WHO said last April.
Stay up-to-date by following FMT's Telegram channelFMT
Faced with increasing mental health issues in this section of the population, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the University of Minnesota in the US examined the potential link between the use of common psychoactive substances, such as alcohol, cannabis and nicotine, and psychiatric symptoms in high-school students.
Analysing a survey of 15,626 high-school students from Massachusetts with an average age of 16, the research reveals that alcohol, cannabis and nicotine use were each associated with an increased prevalence of suicidal thoughts, as well as other mental health disorders.
Published in the journal Jama Pediatrics, the findings further suggest that the use of these substances was associated with an increased risk of symptoms of depression and anxiety, psychotic experiences, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Focus on screening and prevention
In detail, the researchers note that daily and near-daily use of these substances was associated with more frequent suicidal thoughts (about five times more) than no use at all.
“Our results highlight the prevalence of psychiatric comorbidities among young people who use substances, and 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.
“These efforts may not necessarily be specific to a given substance, but rather reflect the multifaceted mental health needs of all adolescents who use substances.”
The findings, which also show an increase in psychiatric symptoms among high-school students who consume relatively low levels of alcohol, cannabis or nicotine, will soon be supplemented by more specific information on the exact relationship between substance use and mental disorders.