Marijuana and Anxiety DisordersMarijuana use can no doubt cause brief bouts of anxiousness. However, some research has also linked marijuana use to anxiety disorders and other chronic conditions. Young people who abuse marijuana may be at an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder later in life. No concrete evidence exists that proves marijuana use alone causes anxiety disorders. And yet, research has revealed that people with these conditions are more susceptible to developing dependence. A study from 2014 examined the result of 31 past studies on the relationship between several anxiety disorders and marijuana use. Researchers found that those with anxiety disorders were more likely to use cannabis or have a cannabis use disorder than their non-anxious counterparts. Another 2009 study revealed that people with social anxiety disorder are seven times more likely to develop marijuana dependence. People with this condition experience an intense fear of being watched, judged, or rejected in social situations.
Self-MedicationSome people may self-medicate with marijuana to relieve the symptoms of untreated mental illness. Self-medicating can produce immediate relief from uncomfortable symptoms, and this reward thereby reinforces its use. While the medical use of marijuana is becoming more widely accepted, we don’t know much about its effectiveness or potential long-term consequences. Habitual use can result in psychological dependence and other adverse outcomes.
RisksMarijuana can also affect the body in many ways beyond just inducing a high. The high feelings that a person gets after ingesting marijuana is due to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical compound in marijuana is responsible for its psychoactive effects. These effects do not come without risks, however, and chronic or frequent use has been associated with the following problems.
Psychological DependenceThe biggest problem with using marijuana as a means to cope with anxiety is that it can lead to dependence. While marijuana’s ability to cause a physical dependence has been under debate, there is no question that it can be habit-forming. It’s not uncommon for a person to become psychologically reliant on its use. This reliance tends to lead to further use and even compulsive drug-seeking behavior. The result is continued abuse of the substance, even in the face of harmful consequences. Although many consider marijuana to be a relatively benign drug, the truth is that marijuana abuse can be harmful.
Long-Term Memory LossResearch has found that chronic marijuana use impairs memory. This impairment occurs because THC alters the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in the formation of memories. It can also adversely affect the brain’s motivation system.
Exacerbation of SymptomsTHC can elevate heart rate, and if a person has anxiety, it may make him or her feel even more anxious. Full-blown panic attacks are not uncommon among those who are prone to them. Using too much marijuana can produce feelings of fear or paranoia as well. In some cases, marijuana can also produce orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing. This condition can cause a person to feel lightheaded or faint. Cannabis use can also lead to dizziness, confusion, nausea, and blurred vision—all of which can contribute to or worsen anxiety. A rare complication of excessive marijuana use is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This condition is characterized by persistent nausea and vomiting. This occurrence is a bit contradictory, as marijuana has sometimes been used for the treatment of these symptoms.
Worsened Psychological DisordersPeople who use marijuana for a prolonged period may experience more symptoms of depression. This side effect occurs despite any improvements they may have experienced during short-term use. Some research has also suggested that heavy use of marijuana during the teenage years can predict depression and anxiety later in life. Certain people are also at risk for the development of psychosis with cannabis use. Excessive doses of marijuana can induce temporary psychotic episodes. These episodes are characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and feelings of being detached from oneself. People may also experience other marijuana-related mental health problems, including a worsening of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.
Anxiety in Marijuana WithdrawalAnxiety is also a common feature during withdrawal among those who use marijuana heavily or for a prolonged period. This fact supports the contention of some experts that marijuana may indeed, on some level, be chemically addictive. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one to three days of the last use, and they can persist after for several days. In addition to anxiety, common withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Decreased appetite