Do you smoke marijuana? Are there any health, especially psychological effects of its use? Are there any factors to consider like duration, frequency, dosage or quality, of marijuana use in terms of health effect? Let’s find out what research reports say.
Marijuana/weed has become one of the most popular illicit drugs in the western world and its use has significantly increased in the last decade in almost all around the world, raising major concern for health care authorities (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, USA, 2004, as cited in Aviv et al., 2008). A study in the determination of the extent of persistent clinical, physiological, neurological and psychological effects of marijuana is of great interest because of the continuous steep rise in its use, the debate on its medicinal use and demand on the legalization of its use.
The specific effects of marijuana greatly depend upon a number of factors, for example, duration, frequency, dosage and quality of the drug, personality, and mood of the user, and the social setting and user expectations (Mitch, 2002). Marijuana has the effect on the brain of altering one’s internal clock (Butcher, Susan, & Jill, 2007). According to the clinical report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1982), marijuana abuse has different psychological manifestations during the period of drug use such as sexual anxiety/confusion, thought disorder, impaired verbal ability, suicidal ideation and delusional effects. In addition, it has clinically significant disabling psychopathology following continuous use for more than 2 years such as personality disorders, schizophrenia, and paranoia, distorted sense of time, short term memory loss, chronic anxiety, and depression. However various recent studies have shown clear evidence against the idea that marijuana causes various types of disabling psychological problems.
Psychological effects of Marijuana
Marijuana and Anxiety/Depressive disorders
“Marijuana intoxication can heighten anxiety but this brief reaction should not be confused with an anxiety disorder” (Mitch, 2002). According to the study done byPablo, Zimmarmann, Bertrand, & Christiane, (2011), the beginners and chronic marijuana dependent users scored higher scale in the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory test showing a higher level of anxiety in comparison to their regular non-addictive experienced users with the same dose of marijuana. In the same study, most of the experienced users presented the highest percentage of avoidant coping strategy to anxiety in the Coping Across Situations Questionnaires (CASQ) and Adolescents Drug Abuse Diagnosis (ADAD) tests whereas the inexperienced users use internal and active styles to cope with anxiety. Both of these methods include different coping strategies in different domains such as parents, peers, leisure time, school, self, romantic relationships, teachers and future (Seiffge-Krenke, 1995, Belognini et al., 2001,2005, as cited in Cascone et al., 2011).Therefore the inclusion of these tests had increased the reliability of the findings of this test.
Many reports such as (Greenspoon & Bakalar,1997) have proposed marijuana as the drug which actually decreases anxiety in the case of experienced users. However, these studies have selected the experienced dependent users from psycho-educational units, so samples may not allow generalization and they have not discussed the social environment of the subjects which may have a major impact in these studies. In support of findings to no relation between marijuana and anxiety, a recent longitudinal study done by (McGee, Williams, Poulton, & Moffitt, 2000)among more than 800 New Zealanders found no link between marijuana and either anxiety or depression.
Many recent studies such as Buckner et al., (2011), have included the social environment aspects in their studies of effects of marijuana and possible anxiety disorder, which have reported contrast idea that marijuana is not related to cause anxiety but social anxiety can result in more marijuana abuse and its related problems. People with elevated social avoidance, fear and stress experience more marijuana-related problems (Buckner et al., 2007). Supporting this idea and to increase the validity of the investigation, Calderia et al., (2008), examined these relationships between marijuana problems and social anxiety among undergraduates who are vulnerable to marijuana abuse and social anxiety. This study reported a higher degree of marijuana abuse and related problems like anxiety in them during their transition from the higher school to college.
Similarly, a study was done by Cascone et al., (2011), on Swiss adolescents with and without cannabis dependence found that adolescents with cannabis dependence have a wide range of additional psychosocial problems such as low parental attachment, family breakdown, and social isolation. However, these studies do not address why people with elevated social anxiety experience such high rates of marijuana-related problems rather than other negative effects. Overall, recent studies suggest that use of marijuana is unlikely to cause any clinical anxiety or depressive disorders however people who are in the anxious mood and are prone to panic and have weaker coping strategies and found to have major psychological disturbances should avoid the use of marijuana.