A positive association between anxiety disorders and cannabis use or cannabis use disorders in the general population--a meta-analysis of 31 studies

BMC Psychiatry. 2014 May 10;14:136. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-14-136.


Background: The aim of the current study was to investigate the association between anxiety and cannabis use/cannabis use disorders in the general population.

Methods: A total of N = 267 studies were identified from a systematic literature search (any time- March 2013) of Medline and PsycInfo databases, and a hand search. The results of 31 studies (with prospective cohort or cross-sectional designs using non-institutionalised cases) were analysed using a random-effects meta-analysis with the inverse variance weights. Lifetime or past 12-month cannabis use, anxiety symptoms, and cannabis use disorders (CUD; dependence and/or abuse/harmful use) were classified according to DSM/ICD criteria or scores on standardised scales.

Results: There was a small positive association between anxiety and either cannabis use (OR = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.06-1.45, p = .006; N = 15 studies) or CUD (OR = 1.68, 95% CI: 1.23-2.31, p = .001; N = 13 studies), and between comorbid anxiety + depression and cannabis use (OR = 1.68, 95% CI: 1.17-2.40, p = .004; N = 5 studies). The positive associations between anxiety and cannabis use (or CUD) were present in subgroups of studies with ORs adjusted for possible confounders (substance use, psychiatric illness, demographics) and in studies with clinical diagnoses of anxiety. Cannabis use at baseline was significantly associated with anxiety at follow-up in N = 5 studies adjusted for confounders (OR = 1.28, 95% CI: 1.06-1.54, p = .01). The opposite relationship was investigated in only one study. There was little evidence for publication bias.

Conclusion: Anxiety is positively associated with cannabis use or CUD in cohorts drawn from some 112,000 non-institutionalised members of the general population of 10 countries.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cannabis*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult