Self-medication of mood and anxiety disorders with marijuana: Higher in states with medical marijuana laws

Aaron L. Sarvet, Melanie M. Wall, Katherine M. Keyes, Mark Olfson, Magdalena Cerda, Deborah S. Hasin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Background: Self-medication with drugs or alcohol is commonly reported among adults with mood or anxiety disorders, and increases the risk of developing substance use disorders. Medical marijuana laws (MML) may be associated with greater acceptance of the therapeutic value of marijuana, leading individuals to self-medicate. Methods: The study utilized data from Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2004–2005). Participants were sampled from households in the general population and included adults with a mood or anxiety disorder in the past 12 months (n = 7418), and the subset of those who used marijuana and no other drug (n = 314). Weighted logistic regression models predicted the prevalence of self-medication with drugs in U.S. states with and without MML, adjusting for individual and state-level covariates. As a negative control, analyses were repeated for self-medication with alcohol. Results: Overall, self-medication with drugs was 3.73 percentage points higher (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.93–6.53) among those living in MML states (p = 0.01). For the subpopulation that only used marijuana, self-medication with drugs was 21.22 percentage points higher (95% CI: 3.91–38.53) among those living in MML states (p = 0.02). In contrast, self-medication with alcohol had nearly identical prevalence in MML and non-MML states, overall and for drinkers. Conclusions: Among adults with mood or anxiety disorders, living in a medical marijuana law state is associated with self-medication with marijuana. While additional research is needed to determine the reasons for this association, clinical screening for self-medication with marijuana may be particularly important in states with medical marijuana laws.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-15
Number of pages6
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • General population
  • Laws
  • Medical marijuana
  • Mood and anxiety disorders
  • Self-medication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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