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Is There a Connection between Marijuana use and Bipolar Disorder in Teens?

Research on the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain has revealed enlightening information in recent years. For example, teenage marijuana use inhibits progress in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. Some newer research suggested that marijuana use among teenagers could be a catalyst for psychotic episodes. Marijuana use in adolescence has also had links to depression. Now, researchers have found a connection between marijuana and bipolar disorder in teenagers who need bipolar disorder treatment programs.    The University of Warwick in the UK provided the study which was published in Schizophrenia Bulletin , reports Big Think . Researchers were specifically looking at hypomania, which is a lesser known part of bipolar disorder. Typically, bipolar disorder is characterized by swinging between two extreme states: mania and depression. Hypomania is considered the mild experience of mania in bipolar disorder, with characteristics of insomnia, feelings of elation, and hyperactivity. Not included in hypomania are some of the more intense characteristics like risk taking behavior, struggling to handle big ideas, and sexual impulsivity.   Data was examined for 3,370 participants who were collected from the  Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). At age 17, the participants were asked about marijuana use. At ages 22-23, participants self-reported symptoms of hypomania through the Hypomania Checklist Questionnaire (HCL-32). All of the participants had symptoms of hypomania.
  • Participants who used marijuana 2-3 times per week at age 17 or before were far more likely to report hypomania symptoms at 22-23.
  • Any marijuana use in teenage years increased the risk of hypomania at age 22-23.
  • The more teens used marijuana, the greater the risk for hypomania.
  • Males were more likely to demonstrate symptoms of hypomania.
  • Males were also more likely to use marijuana.
  • Physical or sexual abuse in childhood had an indirect link with marijuana use and hypomania.
In many cases, symptoms of hypomania preceded a teenager's marijuana use. It is possible that some teens turned to marijuana use as a way to cope with developing hypomania symptoms, only to potentially worsen those symptoms. Teenagers with undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues like hypomania or bipolar disorder are at a greater risk for substance abuse, which can, as this study shows, worsen their symptoms.

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