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In recent years, marijuana use has changed drastically. What was once a federal crime has now been decriminalized in many states. It is widely used for medicinal purposes, and has gained ground with regard to general social approval. According to the 2019 World Drug Report, marijuana use rose by over 60% worldwide in the past decade.

On another note, Mental Health America states that rates of depression are also on the rise. Reported numbers of diagnoses as well as patients seeking treatment have respectively increased drastically, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million people currently suffer from depression worldwide. 

Is there a connection between the two rapidly increasing statistics? This article will explain what you should consider if you find yourself wondering if marijuana use can affect depression symptoms you might be experiencing.

Can smoking marijuana affect depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, several factors contribute to the onset of depression, including genetic, environmental, biological and psychological factors. Whether marijuana plays into those factors is a question that science is hoping to answer.

According to some sources, there is no direct evidence that supports marijuana use causing depression. Although there is a higher rate of depression in those who consume marijuana than those who don’t, this is more likely a result of depression and marijuana usage having similar risk factors (childhood trauma, environmental factors, etc.). Moreover, many individuals may use marijuana to escape negative symptoms of depression, or may present as more depressed when they are high.

There is a push for more research in this area, but from what we know now, marijuana does not cause or actively contribute to depression. Whether marijuana can affect depression is hotly debated. Read on to learn how marijuana use could be impacting other aspects of your mental health – either positively or negatively.

Marijuana Use: the Pros

Use it to cope with emotions: Many people smoke or consume cannabis seeking the calming or stimulating properties it provides. Marijuana can be a form of self-medication for stress, sleep difficulties, social anxiety and focusing difficulties. When dealing with depression, these and other symptoms are prevalent.

Pain management: Marijuana can be used not only to dull emotional pain, but to stunt physical pain as well. Chronic pain and numerous physical conditions are linked to depression, and smoking marijuana or consuming a form of it can help individuals manage debilitating pain.

Medical uses: The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists several medical uses for marijuana and its components. In a pill form, it may decrease nausea in cancer patients, a mouth spray can decrease pain for people affected by multiple sclerosis, and another form is used in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. 

Potential treatment for anxiety: A study published in Neurotherapeutics found that Cannabidiol, or CBD, could be an effective component in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Although anxiety is obviously a different diagnosis than depression, there is a high rate of comorbidity (or dual-diagnosis) between the two.

Marijuana Use: the Cons

Onset of anxiety: A study published in the Journal of Drug Issues found that smoking marijuana in youth increases the likelihood of anxiety disorder onset later in life. There is a theme in numerous studies that usage of marijuana at a young age has more negative long-term implications for overall mental health.

Likelihood of addiction: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 people who regularly use cannabis will become addicted. If the addiction evolves to become substance use disorder, there is a higher likelihood of depression co-occurring or increasing in severity. 

Effects on the brain: The CDC also notes that marijuana usage has several negative impacts on brain functionality. Marijuana can cause issues with memory, concentration, learning and mood, effects demonstrated in both short and long-term studies. Although marijuana has not been proven to directly cause depression, evidence points to the influence of some contributing factors.

Psychosis: Marijuana in high dosages is commonly known to cause dissociation, hallucinations and a sense of paranoia. The CDC states that frequent users may experience psychosis and panic disorder.

Deciding whether to continue your marijuana use

The decision to use marijuana is a personal one, but equipping yourself with knowledge will help you to make the best choice for your life. Familiarize yourself with new studies as they’re published and consult with your mental health professional to weigh marijuana pros and cons, especially in light of depression symptoms. Make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure marijuana use is safe to combine with any medications you may be taking.

If you are still on the fence about continuing marijuana usage, consulting with a mental health professional can help you make the best personal decision. Call Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare at (678) 274-4936 or reach out today, for more information on how marijuana use could be affecting depressive symptoms.

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