New Submission: Mood-related functional impairments associated with cannabis use among adults with recent depression

My new paper, Mood-related functional impairments associated with cannabis use among adults with recent depression, was just submitted for publication. This will be the third publication to come out of my PhD dissertation, Contributions to the Epidemiology and Mental Health Consequences of Cannabis Smoking (2014). See my Publications page to download a copy of my dissertation. One of my previous papers related to this topic, Are early-onset cannabis smokers at an increased risk of depression spells? (2012), was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders (also see Publications for copy). Check out the draft abstract below. – Brian

Authors: Brian J. Fairman


Background: Therapeutic benefits of cannabis for the treatment of depression remain unclear. Patients report smoking cannabis to alleviate depressed mood, but observational studies point to an increased risk for later depression. This study assessed the association between cannabis involvement and mood-related functional impairments, an important, but understudied clinical outcome for depression.

Methods: Annual surveys of adults with past 12-month depression (n=15,342) from the US National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009-2012 assessed total average mood-related functional impairments across four life domains using the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS), and separately, for days of role impairment per annum. Cannabis involvement was measured in terms of past-year frequency, DSM-IV cannabis use disorder (CUD), and the number of cannabis problems.

Results: One-third of adults with depression experienced severe to very severe mood-related functional impairments, and an average of two months of role impairment. After accounting for other factors, weekly cannabis use or having a CUD was linked to an extra 10-15 days of mood-related role impairments. Adults with six or more cannabis problems had an extra month of these impairments. However, severity level of functional impairments did not differ by cannabis involvement after statistical adjustment.

Limitations: Cross-sectional study design prohibited investigating causality and changes in mood-related functional impairments over time.

Conclusions: Adults with depression may suffer from longer periods of role impairment, and experience no less severe mood-related functional impairment when smoking cannabis compared to abstinence. Findings question the likely effectiveness of cannabis smoking in reducing the burden of depression within the population.

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