Gender Differences in Internalizing Symptoms and Suicide Risk Among Men and Women Seeking Treatment for Cannabis Use Disorder from Late Adolescence to Middle Adulthood

Katherine T Foster, Ningfei Li, Erin A McClure, Susan C Sonne, Kevin M Gray
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 2016, 66: 16-22
Cannabis continues to rise in popularity as the perception of its harmfulness decreases and evidence of its deleterious developmental effect increases. While internalizing distress and suicide risk have been linked with cannabis use problems [DSM-5 cannabis use disorder (CUD); DSM-IV cannabis abuse and dependence] it remains unclear how this association varies over the course of development in treatment-seeking men and women. The current study utilized the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (NIDA CTN) to conduct a cross-sectional comparison of internalizing distress and suicide risk among men (n=437) and women (n=163) spanning ages 18-50 who met DSM-5 criteria for CUD. Interactions between gender and developmental stage (i.e., late adolescence, early adulthood, and middle adulthood) were observed for suicide risk and anxiety but not depression problems. Specifically, women seeking CUD treatment in late adolescence and middle adulthood exhibited significantly higher rates of anxiety and suicide risk compared to men seeking treatment during the same developmental stages. Internalizing distress and suicide risk did not differ between treatment-seeking men and women in the early adult stage. Overall, results suggest that the structure of risk for CUD may differ in men and women across the lifespan and that women presenting for CUD treatment during late adolescence and middle adulthood may uniquely benefit from intervention designed to address these elevations in anxiety and suicide risk.

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