Co-Occurrence Across Time and Space of Drug- and Cannabinoid- Exposure and Adverse Mental Health Outcomes in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health Dataset 2: Combined Ecological Geotemporospatial and Causal Inference Analysis

Published: 15 October 2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/gyckst6rx8.1
Albert Reece


Background: Whilst many studies have linked increased drug and cannabis exposure to adverse mental health (MH) outcomes their effects on whole populations and geotemporospatial relationships are not well understood. Objectives: Determine: (1) if cannabis use is associated with major MH outcomes ascross space and time, (2) if such impacts are robust to multivariable adjustment and (3) if the relationship is causal. Methods. Ecological cohort study of National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) geographically-linked substate-shapefiles 2010-2012 and 2014-2016 supplemented by five-year US American Community Survey. Drugs: cigarettes, alcohol abuse, last-month cannabis use and last-year cocaine use. MH: any mental illness, major depressive illness, serious mental illness and suicidal thinking. Data analysis: two-stage, geotemporospatial, robust generalized linear regression and causal inference methods in R. Results: 410,138 NSDUH respondents. Average response rate 76.7%. When all drug exposure, ethnicity and income variables were combined in final geospatiotemporal models tobacco, alcohol cannabis exposure, and various ethnicities were significantly related to all four major mental health outcomes. Cannabis exposure alone was related to any mental illness (β-estimate= -3.315 (95%C.I. -4.04, -2.58, P<2.2x10-16), major depressive episode (β-estimate= -3.71 (-4.6, -2.82), P=3.0x10-16), serious mental illness (SMI, β-estimate= -3.063 (-4.05, -2.05), P=1.2x10-9), suicidal ideation (β-estimate= -3.01 (-3.87, -2.16), P=4.8x10-12) and with more significant interactions in each case (from β-estimate= 1.84 (1.30, 2.39), P=3.0x10-11). Geospatial modelling showed a monotonic upward trajectory of SMI which doubled (3.62% to 7.06%) as cannabis use increased. Extrapolated to whole populations cannabis decriminalization (4.26%, (4.18, 4.34%)), Prevalence Ratio (PR)=1.035(1.034-1.036), attributable fraction in the exposed (AFE)=3.28%(3.18-3.37%), P<10-300) and legalization (4.75% (4.65, 4.84%), PR=1.155 (1.153-1.158), AFE=12.91% (12.72-13.10%), P<10-300) were associated with increased SMI vs. illegal status (4.26+0.04%). Conclusions: Data show all four indices of mental ill-health track cannabis exposure across space and time and are robust to multivariable adjustment for ethnicity, socioeconomics and other drug use. MH deteriorated with cannabis legalization. Cannabis use-MH data are consistent with causal relationships in the forward direction and include dose-response relationships. Together with similar international reports and numerous mechanistic studies preventative action to reduce cannabis use is indicated.



Edith Cowan University, University of Western Australia


Psychiatry, Toxicology, Epidemiology, Public Health, Mental Health, Cannabinoid, Population Health, Health, International Mental Health, Cannabis Abuse