Daily marijuana use and depression
Updated: Jul 5, 2020
While marijuana use is legal in California, many people do not realize that “weed” is actually a depressive substance (1). Daily marijuana users may protest: “Marijuana is all-natural,” or “It’s better for me than pills,” or “It isn’t physically addictive.” In reality, marijuana remains in the organs of the body longer than alcohol (2). It has also been shown to cause marijuana use disorder—a form of addiction—in 30% of those who use it (3). Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana cessation can include irritability, sleep problems, lowered appetite, and cravings (3).
Some studies suggest that people who use marijuana are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who do not use marijuana (1). Other research suggests that suicidal teens are more likely to have smoked marijuana than non-suicidal teens (1). Those who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are up to 7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults (3).
Why do depressed people turn to marijuana in the first place? They may use marijuana as a way to try to “escape” from their symptoms of depression (1). This may be a false expectation. In my practice, I have observed that clients who become daily marijuana users are more prone to appear apathetic and depressed. Marijuana use can also trigger psychotic episodes in people who are at risk for psychosis (1,2).
The real question for anyone who uses any mind-altering substance on a daily basis is: “Why is there a need for it?” Or, more specifically, “What are you trying to escape from?” It is far more effective to uncover the root cause of the problem (which may not always be clearly evident) and to work to address the challenges head on. This is often a slow process that requires the help of an intuitive psychotherapist and some patience. The reward, however, can be living life to the fullest each day instead of daily dulling the senses.
1. Mayo Clinic. Marijuana and depression: What’s the link? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/marijuana-and-depression/faq-20058060.
2. Murry B. Marijuana's effects on human cognitive functions, psychomotor functions, and personality. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3009708.
3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Is marijuana addictive? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive.