Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Negative urgency partially accounts for the relationship between major depressive disorder and marijuana problems.



To goal of this study was to better understand mechanisms underlying associations between Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and marijuana use and problems. Specifically, it was hypothesized that negative urgency (NU), the tendency to act rashly while experiencing negative mood states, would uniquely (compared to other impulsivity traits: positive urgency, sensation seeking, premeditation, and perseverance) account for the relationship between MDD and marijuana use and problems.


Data were collected from a sample (N = 357) of veterans (M age = 33.63) recruited from a Veterans Affairs hospital who used marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Participants completed the SCID-NP to assess MDD, a marijuana problems scale, a Time-Line Follow-back to assess six-month marijuana use, and the UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale for impulsivity.


Path analysis was conducted using bootstrapped (k = 20,000) and bias-corrected 95% confidence intervals (CIs) to estimate mediation (indirect) effects, controlling for age, sex, and race. Analyses revealed a significant direct effect of MDD on NU and NU on marijuana problems. Regarding mediational analyses, there was a significant indirect effect of MDD on marijuana problems via NU. The direct effect of MDD on marijuana problems was reduced, but remained significant, suggesting partial mediation. No other impulsivity scales accounted for the relationship between MDD and marijuana problems. In predicting marijuana use, there were no significant indirect effects for any impulsivity traits, including NU, despite significant bivariate associations between use and NU and MDD.


Results suggest that high levels of NU may partially explain associations between MDD and marijuana problems, but not marijuana use. No other facets of impulsivity accounted for the relationship between MDD and marijuana use or problems, underscoring the specificity of NU as a putative mechanism and the importance of assessing NU in treatment settings.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View