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Updated: May 18, 2022

Marijuana and Mental Health: 4 Things to Know

"Marijuana isn’t addictive."

It’s a lie we’re told over and over again, but the truth is humans can get addicted to anything that makes them feel good. It’s why we have videogame, food, sex, and gambling addictions. Although some experts are hesitant to classify these as “addictions,” everyone seems to agree that people can form “all-consuming passions” for them, and many use them to cope with anxiety and depression.

Sound familiar?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a few thoughts on marijuana addiction. According to the institute, approximately 30% of those who use it will develop “marijuana use disorder.” This means they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms without it. They don’t classify it as an addiction until it affects the person’s daily life.

However, we all know that a functioning addict is still an addict. And as with any addiction, marijuana not only affects a person’s physical health; it also affects their mental health.

Here are four things to know about marijuana and mental health:

1.   It can induce schizophrenia and psychosis.

For those predisposed to mental health conditions, marijuana can act as a catalyst. Symptoms of cannabis-induced psychosis include obsession, depression, paranoia, and hallucinations.

2.   It can increase anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

In June 2021, The National Institutes of Health surveyed 280,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35. The results showed that even those who used the drug rarely had a higher rate of suicidal thoughts than those who did not use the drug at all.

3.   It can cause confusion and anxiety.

Most people smoke marijuana to relax. Sometimes, they feel so relaxed that they have a slower reaction time and feel confused. It may not bother them in the moment, but it’s not great for overall brain function.

Also, once that relaxation phase is over and the high wears off, marijuana users can actually experience increased anxiety. The solution? Smoke more marijuana. You can see how a person might form a dependence.

4.   While marijuana may not be a gateway drug, it is a gateway to relapse.

If someone is in recovery, they may try experimenting with the idea of “California sober” or “sober lite.” However, most recovery programs discount this approach because studies show addicts who continue experimenting with marijuana and alcohol are likely to relapse and turn to hard drugs again.

It’s worth mentioning that marijuana use can result in a user inadvertently taking a substance they don’t mean to. Illicit marijuana could be laced with LSD, coke, and heroin. Even “legal” marijuana may have more THC than you bargained for. The NIDA points out that marijuana tested in the 1990s typically had a THC level of less than 4%, while that number jumped to 15% in 2018.

Marijuana may be less lethal than other drugs, but it is still a drug, and its use has consequences—especially when considering the user’s mental health.


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