How Marijuana Can Impact Your Mental Health

Over the last several years, a majority of states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana.

What once was considered a harmful and dangerous drug is now becoming much more widely accepted around the country. Even though you’re allowed to lawfully buy and consume marijuana in many places, it’s still important to remember that it’s a psychoactive drug.

According to a research report from Gallup, 12% of Americans say they smoke marijuana. Young adults between the ages of 18-29 are the most likely demographic to use the drug. However, 12% of adults between the ages of 50-64, and 11% of adults between 30-49 said they also use marijuana.

Unlike other drugs, marijuana isn’t just used for recreational purposes. Millions of Americans use marijuana for medicinal reasons. The drug has been shown to improve every health condition from anxiety to cancer. But whether you’re using marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it does come with side effects.

Marijuana has been shown to negatively impact the mental health of some users. It seems counterintuitive, considering that many people smoke marijuana to reduce symptoms of mental health disorders. But any psychoactive substance comes with a risk of side effects. If you or someone you know is a marijuana user, it helps to understand how it can affect their mental state.

How Marijuana Impacts the Brain

Marijuana is a plant and is largely considered to be a natural substance. Many avid marijuana users believe that the drug is a safe substance. While that’s mostly true, marijuana is not a miracle drug. It’s possible to use marijuana without experiencing any dramatic side effects, but there are multiple risks associated with use, particularly around mental health.

Ingesting marijuana in any form—whether through smoking, vaping, or edibles—has been shown to cause both short- and long-term changes to brain chemistry. The psychoactive compound in marijuana, called THC, binds to brain receptors and leads to mood-altering side effects and the feeling of being “high.”

However, everyone’s brain chemistry is different. Not all marijuana users experience the positive effects of the drug. Depending on a person’s biology, family history, and mental health state, they might experience more dramatic effects. Some of the negative side effects of marijuana include:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Mania
  • Delusions
These negative side effects are more prevalent in heavy marijuana users and people who use stronger strains. However, it’s also possible for a first-time marijuana user to experience these harmful symptoms. Anyone who uses marijuana should monitor their response to the drug and take note of any unpleasant feelings they get from using it.

If you or a loved one are suffering from marijuana abuse or dual-diagnosis, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

The Long-term Mental Health Effects of Marijuana

The negative side effects of marijuana aren’t always temporary.

Research shows that marijuana alters brain structure, and specifically affects areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating motivation, emotion, learning, and memory. After a person stops using marijuana, those brain changes don’t always revert back to the way they were before.

For people who already struggle with their mental health, using marijuana can make their condition worse. But for individuals with no existing mental health disorders, using marijuana can increase their risk of developing certain conditions. Studies have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of the following disorders:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • PTSD

marijuana and mental health

At some point, marijuana users may need to seek dual-diagnosis treatment, which addresses their marijuana use and their mental health disorder. Some common symptoms of marijuana dependence and co-occurring mental health disorders include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Low energy
  • Decreased motivation
  • Poor feelings of self-worth
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Lack of interest in activities one once enjoyed
  • Lack of participation in relationships
  • Poor communication with others
  • Apathy

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to become addicted to marijuana. Data suggests that roughly 30% of marijuana users have some degree of dependence. Young adults who start using marijuana before age 18 are the most likely to develop a dependence over time. Smoking stronger strains also increase the likelihood that marijuana users will get addicted.

Unlike other drugs, it can be difficult to determine if someone has a marijuana dependence. From a clinical perspective, a marijuana user is considered “addicted” when their drug use interferes with some aspect of their life. Someone might have a marijuana dependence when they prioritize their drug use before other important responsibilities, like work or school.

Treating Marijuana Addiction and Mental Health

If someone is struggling with marijuana dependence, especially if it’s coupled with a mental health disorder, getting professional treatment is critical. When marijuana addiction and mental health conditions aren’t treated equally, the person may deal with unresolved issues that can cause them to relapse.

Additionally, heavy marijuana users who experience mental health issues might be more likely to develop a secondary substance abuse disorder. It’s common for people with depression, anxiety, and trauma disorders to use alcohol or more potent drugs to help cope with their symptoms.

At Nexus Recovery, we understand that marijuana addiction is a growing issue and a progressive disorder, which is why we offer personalized treatment programs for adult clients of all ages. Most clients who get treatment for marijuana addiction start in our  intensive outpatient program, which meets at our Los Angeles facility 3-5 days per week.

If a client is suffering from any co-occurring disorders, such as marijuana use disorder and a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, we coordinate with the appropriate professionals to ensure that treatment for both disorders is concurrent and both receive the same level of care and clinical expertise. Some of the mental health treatments we offer include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Multidimensional Family Therapy.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a marijuana addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder, getting professional treatment can help them make a full recovery. Get in touch with our team today to learn more about the outpatient program at Nexus Recovery.

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