Teens have many excuses to start smoking marijuana, including boredom, peer pressure or curiosity. However, new research shows that some young people are turning to marijuana to cope with anxiety. What’s more alarming is the age of onset. A study conducted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that teens with anxiety disorders start smoking marijuana sooner than teens without anxiety issues.
Self-Medicating with Marijuana
Researchers assessed the substance history of 195 teens between the ages of 14 and 18. Researchers also looked into whether the teens had social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and agoraphobia. An overwhelming majority of the teens (92 percent) had marijuana dependence. The average age of first use was 13 years. However, the average age for teens with social anxiety to begin smoking marijuana was 10.6 years.
Marijuana dependence was more common among the teens with social anxiety disorder or panic disorder. For about 80 percent of teens with social anxiety disorder and 85 percent of teens with panic disorder, their symptoms of anxiety appeared before they started smoking marijuana.
An Ounce of Prevention
The study shows that many teens are self-medicating for mental illness. This is a cause for concern because they are becoming dependent at a young age and moving on to other drugs. Starting prevention and awareness at an even earlier age and addressing the mental health issues reduces the risk of dual diagnosis later on in life.