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Marijuana: Does it really improve our mental health?

I have been pretty anti-drugs my entire life, but I know so many people that will share that marijuana helps relax them; using marijuana is fun and helps them let go. However, I think differently. Does it really help? Or is it ruining lives through a disguise? The evidence is pretty controversial.

Please note that as I go through these positive and negative effects from marijuana use, this is in no way me judging you if you use or do not use. Like I said, the evidence is pretty controversial. Obviously, I have my suggestion to avoid using any kind of drug, because…better safe than sorry, but you are in charge of your life. You are in charge of your own decisions. Okay, now, let’s get into the nitty gritty!

Mental Health Daily (2013) cites several articles about the potential psychological benefits of marijuana usage, like neuropathic pain reduction, mood enhancement, hostility reduction, insomnia reduction, and anxiety reduction. Weir (2015) supports this claim, as the articles provides information that marijuana could be medicinally beneficial for pain, muscle spasms, seizures, and nausea.

It’s important that not everyone reacts so positively to marijuana usage. Instead of anxiety reduction, different strains can actually provoke anxiety and provide other adverse reactions.

Because I work with adolescents, I am deeply concerned about their physical and mental health, as physical health impacts mental health and vice versa. Many of the adolescents I work with use marijuana as an escape, as a way to cope with their anxiety and trauma. Bujarski et al. (2012) find that adolescents may use marijuana to alleviate their negative moods and relieve distress, but this decision to use may be hurting rather than helping them.

In the United States, marijuana use is becoming gradually widespread and is even becoming more popular than cigarette smoking! For adolescents, marijuana use can be detrimental to their brain and body development, hurting their physical and mental health for the future; marijuana use can impair their respiratory system, emotional regulation, and neuropsychological functions (Passarotti, Crane, Hedeker, & Mermelstein, 2015; Weir, 2015). Marijuana use can hurt one’s attention, memory, learning processes, and decision-making skills as well (Ranganathan & D’Souza, 2006). What’s even scarier is that marijuana use could even lead to acute, toxic psychosis, like experiencing flashbacks, depersonalization, and derealization (Johnson, 1990).

Other than these negative psychological effects, marijuana use could also worsen social outcomes. Marijuana use has the potential to worsen “novelty-seeking, aggressive and anti-social behaviors,” (Passarotti et al., 2015, p. 301). This could then lead to worsened educational outcomes and increased risky, harmful behaviors! While marijuana use is often viewed as a stress-reducer and non-harmful way of having fun, the abuse of the drug can lead to really scary stuff. It can make you less pleasant to be around and hurtful to yourself and others.

Of course, everyone’s experience will be different. Everyone has various protective factors (positive, beneficial aspects of their lives that impact their use) and risk factors (negative, hurtful aspects of their lives that impact their use). These factors will play a role into what their experience with using is like.

Whatever you choose to do with your life and drug use will have natural consequences. Maybe you’ll have a great experience! Maybe you won’t. My unsolicited advice to you is to stay safe and avoid something that could hurt you. We can own today by making educated decisions and enjoying our lives to the fullest in healthy ways!

Bujarski, S. J., Feldner, M. T., Lewis, S. F., Babson, K. A., Trainor, C. D., Leen-Feldner, E., . . . Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2012). Marijuana use among traumatic event-exposed adolescents: Posttraumatic stress symptom frequency predicts coping motivations for use. AddictiveBehaviors, 37(1), 53-59. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.08.009

Johnson, B.A. (1990). Psychopharmacological effects of cannabis. British journal of hospital medicine. 43(2): 114–6, 118–20, 122. PMID 2178712

Passarotti, A. M., Crane, N. A., Hedeker, D., & Mermelstein, R. J. (2015). Longitudinal trajectories of marijuana use from adolescence to young adulthood. Addictive Behaviors, 45301-308. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.02.008

Psychological Benefits Of Marijuana Usage. (2013, March 05). Retrieved January 6, 2019, from https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2013/03/05/psychological-benefits-of-marijuana-usage/

Ranganathan, M., & D’Souza, D. (2006). The acute effects of cannabinoids on memory in humans: a review. Psychopharmacology, 188(4), 425-444. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-006-0508-y

Weir, K. (2015). Marijuana and the developing brain. Monitor On Psychology, 46(10), 48. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain.aspx


  • Anna

    You presented the positive and negative effects of the use of marijuana without being judgemental. It is a true reflection of facts which hopefully will guide others to make the right decision for themselves. Fun can be had without inhacements from drug use. We as a society need to pay more attention to our surroundings and people in our lives that may need help socially, mentally and physically. It seems that sometimes we miss recognizing issues and avoid or are simply in denial of what our eyes see! Because of that, our teenagers and even preteen turn to alternative ways to suppress their pain and anxiety. I offer no solution with the exception of being attentive to our families and friends and offer a shoulder to cry on ….always listen!

  • Kayla

    I appreciate that you used cited sources to talk about both sides of this subject – very fair and educational of you! I think a big point comes down to the age (adolescent brains are still developing and as such, any sort of drug can impact development), and a whole bunch of other factors like hormones and pre-existing conditions. I definitely agree that at the end of the day, it’s important to educate yourself before trying something new.

    Another fantastic article, Elena!

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