Adjustment disorder is an inappropriate or exaggerated response to a life stressor. It might be tempting to use marijuana to cope, but it might make symptoms worse.

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a drug that recently became legal for personal use in many states. However, marijuana remains a Schedule I substance as classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Cannabidiol (CBD), a component of marijuana, has been approved by the FDA for rare seizure disorders. CBD has also found a home treating cachexia (poor appetite and wasting) in cancer patients.

Adjustment disorder is a mental health disorder caused by life stressors (i.e., the death of a loved one, moving, getting a new job), and a person’s inability to adjust to the change brought on by the stressor. An adjustment disorder can only exist in the absence of another mental health disorder, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Article at a Glance:

  • Marijuana is legal in many states but is illegal federally
  • Adjustment disorder is an inappropriate response to a stressful event
  • Marijuana cannot cause adjustment disorder, but it might make it worse
  • Adjustment disorder can cause SUD and marijuana addiction

Can Marijuana Cause Adjustment Disorder?

No, marijuana does not cause the disorder. Adjustment disorder is caused by life stressors like moving, marriage and having kids. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) defines adjustment disorder as:

  • A major stressor, like a job promotion or moving to a different part of the country, causes an emotional or behavioral response. Symptoms start within three months of the event.
  • The symptoms are out of proportion to the stress, or they have a major impact on a person’s functioning.
  • The person does not have another mental health diagnosis that explains the reaction.

Marijuana does not cause adjustment disorder, but it can change the course of the disease. Adjustment disorder can cause substance use disorder (SUD), so smoking marijuana with adjustment disorder can lead to an addiction.

Can Marijuana Affect Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder?

Common symptoms of marijuana intoxication are:

  • An altered feeling of time, when minutes feel like hours
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Movement problems
  • Senses altered like seeing colors more brightly
  • Thinking and memory problems

The drug’s symptoms, especially mood changes, can make adjustment disorder symptoms harder to treat and manage.

Adjustment disorder goes away on its own but a healthy lifestyle is critical for success in addressing an adjustment disorder. A healthy diet, exercise and a strong support system are beneficial to resolving an adjustment disorder. Marijuana abuse can get in the way of that recovery.

Can Marijuana Affect Adjustment Disorder Recovery?

Yes, marijuana impacts the symptoms of adjustment disorder and can affect a person’s attempt to recover from one. Adjustment disorder also increases the chance of developing a SUD as people struggling to cope with their situations may turn to substances for relief.

Marijuana addiction can be hard to spot because it is not as habit forming as other drugs are. If marijuana addiction is suspected, look out for these symptoms of marijuana addiction:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

If you or a loved one struggle with marijuana addiction alongside a co-occurring mental health disorder like adjustment disorder, reach out to The Recovery Village to speak with a representative. With individualized adjustment disorder treatment plans, The Recovery Village helps patients address their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. Take the first step toward a healthier future by calling today.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Conor Sheehy
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Food and Drug Administration. “EPIDIOLEX – Highlights of Prescribing Information.” 2018. Accessed May 23, 2019.

National Library of Medicine. “Marijuana.” 2013. Accessed May 23, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.