Association Between the Use of Cannabis and Physical Violence in Youths: A Meta-Analytical Investigation

Am J Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 1;177(7):619-626. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19101008. Epub 2020 May 27.


Objective: The aim of this meta-analysis was to investigate the extent to which cannabis use among youths is associated with the risk of perpetrating physical violence.

Methods: Searches were conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Google Scholar for articles published from the inception of each database to July 2019. All studies that examined both cannabis use and the perpetration of physical violence in a sample of youths and young adults <30 years old were included. The meta-analysis was performed with a random-effects model. Risk of publication bias was assessed with Egger's test. Guidelines from the Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies in Epidemiology were followed.

Results: After screening 11,348 potential studies, 30 study arms were included, yielding a total of 296,815 adolescents and young adults. The odds ratio for the pooled studies was 2.11 (95% CI=1.64, 2.72). The pooled odds ratios were 2.15 (95% CI=1.58, 2.94) and 2.02 (95% CI=1.26, 3.23) for the cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, respectively. Preliminary evidence suggests that the risk of violence was higher for persistent heavy users (odds ratio=2.81, 95% CI=1.68, 4.74) compared with past-year users (odds ratio=2.05, 95% CI=1.5, 2.8) and lifetime users (odds ratio=1.94, 95% CI=1.29, 2.93). The odds ratio for unadjusted studies was 2.62 (95% CI=1.89, 3.62), and for studies using odds ratios adjusted for potential confounding factors, 2.01 (95% CI=1.57, 2.56).

Conclusions: These results demonstrate a moderate association between cannabis use and physical violence, which remained significant regardless of study design and adjustment for confounding factors (i.e., socioeconomic factors, other substance use). Cannabis use in this population is a risk factor for violence.

Keywords: Cannabis Use; Meta-Analysis; Physical Violence; Youths.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult