Background

Cannabis use in young people is common and associated with psychiatric disorders. However, the prospective link between cannabis use and bipolar disorder symptoms has rarely been investigated. The study hypothesis was that adolescent cannabis use is associated with hypomania in early adulthood via several potential etiological pathways.

Methods

Data were used from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a UK birth cohort study. The prospective link between cannabis use at age 17 and hypomania at age 22–23 years was tested using regression analysis, adjusted for gender, early environmental risk factors, alcohol and drug use, and depression and psychotic symptoms at age 18 years. Path analysis examined direct and indirect effects of the link and whether gender, childhood family adversity, or childhood abuse are associated with hypomania via an increased risk of cannabis use.

Results

Data were available on 3370 participants. Cannabis use at least 2–3 times weekly was associated with later hypomania (OR = 2.21, 95% CI = 1.49–3.28) after adjustment. There was a dose–response relationship (any use vs weekly). Cannabis use mediated the association of both childhood sexual abuse and hypomania, and male gender and hypomania. The cannabis use-hypomania link was not mediated by depression or psychotic symptoms.

Conclusions

Adolescent cannabis use may be an independent risk factor for future hypomania, and the nature of the association suggests a potential causal link. Cannabis use mediates the link between childhood abuse and future hypomania. As such it might be a useful target for indicated prevention of hypomania.

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