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Can Marijuana Use Cause Depression?

Marijuana is known for its relaxing effects, and because of this, many people are drawn to using it to relieve stress. Marijuana can also make people laugh over things that they would not find interesting or funny when sober. These symptoms from marijuana use seem to only elevate the user’s overall state. Yet, there have been questions arising about the connection between marijuana use and depression.

The Link Between Marijuana and Depression

The statistics we have available from marijuana users about their mental states may have more to do with self-medication than cause and effect. As an example, “some research suggests that marijuana smokers are diagnosed with depression more often than nonsmokers are – particularly regular or heavy marijuana users.” It’s important to acknowledge that these statistics do not necessarily indicate that marijuana directly causes depression.

There are most likely genetic, environmental, and socio factors that initiate depression and marijuana use. Many marijuana users start using it as a way to cope with depressive feelings and, resultantly, are categorized as individuals with depression who use marijuana.

Another interesting perspective is that frequent marijuana users may seem depressed because of the drug’s effects. Marijuana has a dulling effect on the body, impacting how the individual feels and acts. Marijuana affects every user differently; some people may get lethargic with low energy, while others may be giggly and energetic. An individual with low energy may appear depressed, but it could solely be the drug’s effect on the body.

Effects of Marijuana On Mental Health

Depression has not been the only mental health condition associated with marijuana use. Drugs affect how the brain works and interact with the neurochemical reactions in the brain. With this response, the brain may begin to function abnormally, and underlying mental health issues may manifest. Marijuana may somehow initiate or worsen underlying mental health conditions. The Mayo Clinic released information that “marijuana use may trigger schizophrenia or detachment from reality (psychosis) in people who are at a higher risk of psychosis.” Recent research shared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that “smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana.”

Additional studies have “linked marijuana use to increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.” This research detailed in the scientific journal Addiction Biology still noted that “whether and to what extent it actually causes these conditions is not always easy to determine.”

We must emphasize “triggered” and “aggravated” in research on this topic because it demonstrates that no one thing can cause a mental health disorder. That is why language from the Mayo Clinic research is carefully delivered: “The symptoms of diagnosed psychotic illness may be aggravated if marijuana use continues.” Research teams must consider “the amount of drug used, the age at first use, and genetic vulnerability” when determining if marijuana use causes depression, as these factors “have all been shown to influence this relationship.” A review about the association between cannabis and psychosis can be found in the psychiatry journal, Frontiers in Psychiatry, and describes that “the strongest evidence to date concerns links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders in those with a pre-existing genetic or other vulnerability.” Further research found while using longitudinal data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions that there are indeed associations between marijuana use, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.

When analyzing all of this data, the research team found that “after adjusting for various confounding factors, no association between marijuana use and mood and anxiety disorders was found.” There is always a chance of contributing factors in any disease.

The question of what demographic is most at risk from the link between marijuana use and depression is important. Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests “that teenagers who attempt suicide may be more likely to have used marijuana than those who have not made an attempt.” With such a vulnerable population affected by marijuana use, more research is needed to acknowledge and understand the connection between marijuana use and depression.

There are no concrete answers to whether or not marijuana use causes depression. At Boardwalk Recovery Center, we are aware that marijuana and depression can accompany each other and we aim to eliminate that relationship from ever developing.

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