Marijuana and Depression | Does Marijuana Help Depression or Trigger it?

Marijuana and mental health, and the relationship between marijuana and depression aren’t topics that are well-understood. It’s not just civilians who misunderstand the interaction between marijuana and depression. The answers are still unclear to the medical community, where more research is needed on marijuana and depression before answering questions like “does marijuana help depression or trigger it?”
However, some key facts are known.

With marijuana and depression, there are complex situations to understand, including how the THC in the marijuana affects your brain in general.

Marijuana and Depression | Does Marijuana Help Depression or Trigger it?
The concept of using marijuana has become somewhat mainstream. While it’s still illegal in many states, some states have legalized the use of marijuana for not only medicinal purposes but also for recreational use. Because of the shifts in how marijuana use is perceived, numerous people may think the drug isn’t harmful or that it has helpful effects that it may not actually deliver. While there are potential medicinal effects of marijuana, self-medicating is never a good idea without first consulting with a medical professional. Unfortunately, unsupervised self-medication is often what happens with marijuana and depression and other mental health disorders. When someone uses marijuana, the chemicals in the drug bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, changing the balance of the brain. This can be helpful in some cases for someone who has depression, but marijuana and depression can also be a very harmful combination. Specific areas of the brain impacted by marijuana include the:
  • Amygdala: THC affects this part of the brain that is responsible for the regulation of emotions, fear, and anxiety. Sometimes users can feel a sense of paranoia or panic as a result.
  • Neocortex: This part of the brain is responsible for more complex thoughts, decision-making, and movement, and can be impaired by marijuana use.
  • Nucleus acumens: Particularly important is the impact of marijuana on this section of the brain, which regulates reward and motivation.
In general, because of how marijuana affects the entire brain, it changes the normal functioning of important chemicals and alters the balance of the brain as a whole. This is why some people might experience a decrease in depressive symptoms, while others might experience harsh effects from the use of marijuana. One of the primary causes of depression is also biochemistry of the brain, so it is possible that marijuana can actually trigger depression as a result.
With marijuana and depression, there are still many unknown factors. For example, some people who use marijuana with depression feel that it boosts their mood and allows them to be more relaxed, but there are also many people who say that marijuana and depression are a bad mix and makes their symptoms worse. For example, there was one study showing that low doses of THC in marijuana were helpful for the treatment of depression, while higher doses of marijuana and depression led to worsening symptoms and the potential for other severe mental health problems like psychosis. Even in people with no pre-existing mental health conditions, very high doses of THC have been known to lead to acute psychosis and symptoms similar to schizophrenia.
All too often, people with underlying mental health conditions like depression may try to treat their symptoms with drug use. This is why dual diagnoses are so common, as people with substance use disorders are often also treated for mental health disorders. Unfortunately, self-medicating with marijuana and depression may not only be ineffective, but it can lead to larger problems. Cannabis impacts the neurotransmitters in the brain including dopamine and GABA. When there is a disruption in the normal functionality of neurotransmitters, it can exacerbate psychological disorders. The impacts of marijuana and depression can be particularly dangerous in younger people who use the drug, as it can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts in some people. There have also been studies showing that young people who regularly used cannabis were at a higher risk for depression than their peers. Marijuana can contribute to the manifestation of symptoms of depression because it has a depressant effect on the brain. People with heavier or more long-term use of marijuana tend to show more chronic symptoms, including increased depression. So, does this definitively show marijuana causes depression? No, but it’s not a risk worth taking for people who suffer from depression or who may be predisposed to it. To sum up, the relationship between marijuana and depression is one with numerous unknowns. At low doses, marijuana may help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression, at least in the short-term. But at high doses, marijuana and depression are a bad combination, and the result can be psychosis or suicidal thoughts. There is also evidence that says there’s really no relationship or effect between marijuana and depression for some people, with no mental or physical health outcomes being altered by the use of marijuana. Even so, if someone does have depression, they shouldn’t attempt to self-medicate with marijuana. It’s instead better to work with a medical professional who understands how to treat depression. If you’re someone who is using marijuana and depression is an issue for you, you may seek a dual diagnosis and then specialized treatment for both disorders. Does marijuana help depression or trigger it? A lot of research will have to be done, but there is mixed information available now that indicates it could be risky for people to use marijuana with depression.
Marijuana and Depression | Does Marijuana Help Depression or Trigger it?
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Marijuana and Depression | Does Marijuana Help Depression or Trigger it? was last modified: October 18th, 2017 by The Recovery Village