Shocking News: Young People Smoke Weed When They're Feeling Down

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A young woman smokes up before a "marijuana march" in Toronto. Mark Blinch / Reuters

In his song To Be Young, Ryan Adams sings: "When you're young, you get sad / and you get high."

It's a great song—and also, apparently, scientifically accurate.

A study published today (Sep. 15) in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that young people reported having a negative affect (which is basically the same thing as being in a bad mood or feeling low) in the 24 hours before using marijuana.

That probably seems intuitive, but until now, it had never been scientifically measured, said study author Lydia Shrier, a Harvard University researcher and physician in the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Boston Children's Hospital.

The research suggests that people use weed to "self-medicate" or feel better, Shrier told Newsweek. "A lot of people say they feel better when do they do use marijuana," she said. And so when they feel down again in the future, they tend to return to marijuana to feel better again.

The study involved participants between the ages of 15 and 24, all pot users who toked up on average 10 times per week. For two weeks, they carried handheld computers that asked them a series of questions at random intervals every three hours meant to measure their affect, or mood, and if they had recently used marijuana. Among other findings, the study showed that while a low mood was linked to getting high, whether or not a person was alone or with friends had no apparent impact; the researchers found the 40 people in this study got high just as much whether they were with friends or whether they were solo.

Shrier said the study wasn't primarily meant to establish how marijuana made people feel, but rather if a negative mood was linked to its use.

By firmly showing that people do indeed use marijuana to "self-medicate," the finding could spur clinicians to address weed use with patients and find ways for people to manage feeling "low" without getting high, Shrier said. Whether or not weed can have short-term benefit, chronic marijuana use by adolescents has been linked to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression later in life, she added.

Shocking News: Young People Smoke Weed When They're Feeling Down | Tech & Science