Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2006
Source: Daily Trojan (U of Southern CA Edu)
Copyright: 2006 Daily Trojan
Author: Young Michael Han
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


The study's results show marijuana users are less depressed than non-users.

A recent study co-authored by a USC College researcher has discovered 
that there is no real link between regular use marijuana and symptoms 
of depression, dispelling a widely held assumption regarding the drug's use.

Tom Denson, a USC doctoral candidate in psychology worked with Mitch 
Earleywine, an associate professor at the State University of New 
York, Albany, in conducting the study and writing the report.

To Denson's surprise, the study found marijuana smokers to be less 
depressed than their non-smoking counterparts. The study was reported 
in the scientific medical journal "Addictive Behaviors" in June 2005.

Earleywine was previously an associate professor at USC and the 
author of "Understanding Marijuana." In addition to the report he 
co-authored with Denson, Earleywine has recently conducted and 
published three other studies on marijuana.

In running the study, Denson and Earleywine contacted frequent users 
of marijuana and a smaller control group of non-users through the 
Internet. The test subjects completed Web-based surveys to gauge the 
level of marijuana use and researchers gauged depression levels using 
a scale developed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies.

Participants were categorized into those who consumed marijuana 
daily, once a week or less, or never in their lives. The survey also 
grouped subjects into various degrees of symptomatic depression 
ranging from none to severe.

Through the Internet, researchers were able to reach even those who 
might have been reluctant to be quizzed in person or on the phone.

"We had nearly 4,500 respondents - the largest study of its kind," Denson said.

The findings concluded that those who used marijuana had a less 
depressed mood, more positive effect and fewer somatic complaints 
than non-users, according to the report.

Overall, recreational and medicinal marijuana users were less 
depressed than non-smokers, but in a separate analysis, medicinal 
users reported more depressed mood and more somatic complaints than 
recreational users.

Denson cited ambiguity in the scientific literature as to whether 
marijuana was associated with increased risk of depression as the 
initial motivation for conducting the study.

"Numerous studies had found no link (between marijuana use and 
depression) while other studies found weak relationships between use 
of the drug and depression. We had initially suspected that these 
weak relationships may be due to the inclusion of medical users who 
may be rightfully depressed about their illness," Denson said.

Denson added that on another level, the researchers wanted to test 
whether marijuana users were really afflicted with "amotivational 
syndrome," as government-sponsored public service announcements 
frequently claim.

"There is a tendency to associate the drug with an 'amotivational 
syndrome' in which marijuana users are presumed to be made apathetic 
and lazy due to the drug's effects," Denson said. "Our data and other 
research do not support that notion."

Denson said college students who smoke marijuana receive comparable 
grades to those who abstain.

Although the statistics for USC is unavailable, a study by the 
Harvard School of Public Health found that 15.7 percent of American 
college students had smoked marijuana in the past month.

The study's findings on marijuana and its effects on depression 
contradict statements made recently by government officials.

In a May 3, 2005 release from the White House Office of National Drug 
Control Policy, director John Walters wrote, "Marijuana use, 
particularly during the teen years, can lead to depression, thoughts 
of suicide and schizophrenia."

In response to the statements made by Walters, Rob Kampia, executive 
director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., argued 
that "science should be used to inform policy, not manipulated to 
scare the public," according to the group's Web site,

When asked what the controversial results of the study meant for 
college students and current users, Denson's answer was straightforward.

"It's probably not a good idea to start smoking marijuana if you 
never have. However, if you do smoke marijuana, even every day, you 
are not putting yourself at any additional risk for depression," he said.
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