Depressive symptoms and Problematic Cannabis use among Adolescents: Gender Differences and the Mediation Effect of Self-Medication
Splunder, isis van
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Aim: This study investigated the longitudinal relationship between depressive symptoms and experimental and problematic cannabis use. In addition, the effects of gender and self-medication on this relationship were assessed. Method: A three-wave longitudinal sample of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years (N = 1673, 43,8 % boys) was selected from the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS). Results: In the larger group, depressive symptoms did not predict (problematic) cannabis use. However, results revealed that among experimental users depressive symptoms were higher compared to non-users. In addition, the interaction showed that the relationship between depressive symptoms and experimental cannabis use was stronger among boys. Regarding gender differences, girls scored significantly higher on depressive symptoms compared to boys, and boys scored significantly higher on problematic cannabis use compared to girls. Self-medication did not explain the relationship between depressive symptoms and cannabis use. However, self-medication showed a positive relationship with (problematic) cannabis use. Conclusion: Findings suggest that problematic use is not associated with depressive symptoms, though depressive symptoms are higher among male experimental users. Male adolescents dealing with depressive symptoms are thus a vulnerable group when it comes to the development of problematic cannabis use.