Biology of Sex Differences
The association between cannabis use and suicidal behavior in patients with psychiatric disorders: an analysis of sex differences
Biology of Sex Differences20189:22
© The Author(s). 2018
Published: 11 June 2018
Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug. In the general population, its use has been linked to a heightened propensity for suicidal behavior (SB). We hypothesize that this association varies in patients with psychiatric disorders. SB is known to vary by sex and therefore an investigation of cannabis’ association with SB must consider sex differences. The purpose of this study is to investigate the association between cannabis use and suicide attempts in men and women with psychiatric disorders.
We merged data collected for two studies based in Ontario, Canada (n = 985). We employed a multivariable logistic regression to assess the association between cannabis use and suicide attempts in men and women with psychiatric disorders.
We analyzed data from 465 men and 444 women. Amongst these, 112 men and 158 women had attempted suicide. The average age of our participants was 40 years (standard deviation (SD) 12.4). We found no significant association between suicide attempts and cannabis use in men (odds ratio (OR) = 1.34, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.81, 2.22, p = 0.260) or women (OR = 0.97, 95% CI 0.61, 1.54, p = 0.884). In a sensitivity analysis using a sample of patients with substance use disorder only, the heaviness of cannabis use was associated with small but significant association with SB in men (OR = 1.03, 95% CI 1.01, 1.05, p = 0.007).
Our findings indicate that there is no association between cannabis use and suicidal behavior in men or women with psychiatric disorders unlike what was reported for the general population, though the heaviness of cannabis use may have an effect in men. The impact of cannabis use in psychiatric disorders needs ongoing examination in light of its common use, impending legalization with expected increased access and the uncertainty about cannabis’ effects on prognosis of psychiatric disorders. In addition, research should continue to investigate modifiable risk factors of SB in this population of which cannabis is not a significant factor based on this study.
CannabisSuicideSex differencesPsychiatric disorder