Cannabis Further Impairs Functioning In College Students With Psychiatric Disorders

Meesha Ahuja, MD Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University Young Adult Behavioral Health Program at Rhode Island Hospital Mentors: Laura Whiteley, MD and Larry Brown, MDMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Meesha Ahuja, MD
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior of the
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Young Adult Behavioral Health Program at Rhode Island Hospital
Mentors: Laura Whiteley, MD and Larry Brown, MD

MedicalResearch: Why did you decided to study this topic?

Dr. Ahuja: Severe mental illness is more common among college students than it was a decade ago, and the number of college students presenting for psychiatric care both on and off campus has dramatically increased. The rates of cannabis use have also been increasing among college students in the United States since the mid-1990s. The concomitant use of cannabis and other substances among general samples in psychiatric treatment has been linked to poorer clinical outcomes including increased hospitalizations, increased symptomatology, poorer treatment adherence, higher treatment resistance. However, before doing this study, there was no research that examined the effect of cannabis and other substance use disorders on the scholastic and general functioning of college students in psychiatric care.

MedicalResearch: Where was this study done?

Dr. Ahuja: This study was conducted at the Young Adult Behavioral Health Program at Rhode Island Hospital where college students from eight different colleges throughout the state come for psychiatric care.

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Ahuja: Of the 113 youth (mean age 21, 67% female) in the study, all had a primary non-substance use disorder. In addition, 24% had comorbid cannabis use disorders and 18% had alcohol use disorders. Those with cannabis use disorders were statistically more likely to be on medical leave from school, had lower functioning as assessed by their Global Assessment of Functioning score, and were more likely to be diagnosed with a bipolar disorder than those without cannabis use disorders.

MedicalResearch: Were any of these findings unexpected?

Dr. Ahuja: It was interesting to see that cannabis use disorders were more common than alcohol use disorders. Given the recent decriminalization of cannabis in many states and the media coverage focusing on cannabis, I would expect this trend to continue to increase.

MedicalResearch: What are the conclusions and implications of this study?

Dr. Ahuja: These findings suggest that the use of cannabis by college students in psychiatric treatment is associated with greater functional impairment and greater likelihood of being on medical leave. The high rate of cannabis use disorders among college students in psychiatric care warrants combined treatment approaches that should be available on or near campus.  In addition, awareness of cannabis’ relationship to worsening psychiatric disorders is needed, especially given its widespread use.

Citation:

“The Impact of Cannabis on the Functioning of Youth With Psychiatric Disorders.” Abstract presented at the American Psychiatric Association Meeting. May 3, 2014.

 

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