Researchers from multiple institutions recently compiled and analyzed data from a large-scale survey of more than 43,000 participants and found interesting results connecting social anxiety disorder (SAD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD). About ten percent of the the participants who had CUD also met the criteria for SAD, and understanding their comorbidity can lead to more effective treatments for both disorders.
More than 80 percent of the survey respondents with CUD-SAD comorbidity reported that their anxiety came first, which was followed by the marijuana use, although it can certainly happen in reverse as well. Either way, both disorders exacerbate each other, as chronic marijuana use actually increases anxiety (despite potentially reducing it initially) and people with SAD often seek to self-medicate in a search for relief of the symptoms.
According to the survey, 99 percent of those with SAD and CUD also reported symptoms meeting criteria for diagnosis of one or more additional psychiatric disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 98 percent experienced another Axis I disorder (other substance abuse, mood or anxiety issues), and 74 percent met Axis II personality disorder criteria (obsessive-compulsive, antisocial, schizoid, paranoid, etc.). Overall, those with CUD-SAD comorbidity were 7 times more likely to have a third disorder than those who did not have an anxiety disorder.
This cross-referencing is not only significant for those already in the treatment system. It is incredibly useful information for the handling of adolescents, as marijuana use should trigger SAD screening. The early detection of comorbidity can help reduce or eliminate the compounding problems of additional disorders and potentially a lifetime of difficulty. Intervention such as this can dramatically improve life for many individuals, young and old, by finding effective ways of treating their anxiety issues, whether it includes a medication, practicing mindfulness or finding some other successful outlet.