Cannabis use and its effects on mood disorders

Reviewed by:
July 13, 2021

Cannabis is currently fully legal in 19 states, with many others in different phases of legislation. However, it is important to focus on the impact that cannabis has on its users. This is especially so in the case of users who experience mental health disorders. Individuals with mood and anxiety disorders have higher rates of marijuana use. Self-medication of symptoms contributes to the higher rates of use. The effects of cannabis (or marijuana) may well provide immediate relief from certain symptoms. However, marijuana's effect longer term effects on these symptoms are less understood.

What have recent studies found?

A new study has shown that adolescent cannabis users are more likely to develop depression and suicidality in young adulthood. Another study suggests that cannabis users who experience post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders, bipolar disorders, or major depression showed more severe symptoms and lower rates of remission than less-frequent or non-users later on. It is important to note that this was not the case for those with anxiety.There is currently no indication that cannabis use may benefit symptoms of an anxiety or mood disorder over time.

Who is at risk?

Those at risk include adolescents below the age of 18. Others include those with various stress, panic and bipolar disorders as well as depression.

What is the impact to young adults?

Young adults are particularly vulnerable as the findings support the notion that adolescence represents a window of risk. During this window, the potential harmful effects of cannabis are most pronounced. Specifically, the study showed the odds of developing depression between the ages of 18 and 32 years was 37% higher in adolescent cannabis users. There was a 50% increase in the odds of suicidal ideation in cannabis users, who were 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide.

What is the solution?

There needs to be further studies into the use of cannabis and it's long-term effects on adolescents and those with various mood disorders. Adolescents should be educated on the effects that marijuana use in young adulthood has on mood disorders. Those with mood disorders should consult their physician before self-medicating. There are many ways to treat behavioral health disorders outside of cannabis including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which we previously discussed.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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