Marijuana Addiction & Mental Health Problems
- Marijuana and the Brain
- Mood Disorders
- Can Using Marijuana Cause Anxiety?
- Marijuana and Psychosis
- Marijuana and Dual Disorders
- Marijuana Addiction in Teens
Thus, many individuals with a mental health disorder might also be using marijuana.
What is a Dual Diagnosis?The co-occurrence of marijuana use disorder and mental illness is commonly referred to as a dual diagnosis.
Thus, many individuals with a mental health disorder might also be using marijuana.
Marijuana and the Brain
In the short-term, the 'high' or intoxication effects of marijuana is the result of alterations in brain chemistry.
- For example, marijuana used once per week has been associated with altered size and shape of brain structures, specifically, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala; responsible for regulating motivation and emotion.
- Another brain structure important in learning and memory--the hippocampus--also appears to be vulnerable to structural alterations as a result of marijuana use.
It is not known if any of these effects upon brain structure can be reversed.
There are strong links between mood disorders (such as Depression or Bipolar Disorder) and marijuana use. Research shows that marijuana use may increase depressive symptoms in users; however, it is unclear to what degree social and contextual factors play a role.
Possible scenarios that link the two may include:
- Marijuana-induces mood problems.
- Self-medication with marijuana for already existing mood problems.
- Genetic mood vulnerabilities are activated by marijuana use.
- Freestanding mood problems are worsened by marijuana use.
Marijuana dependence and concurrent depression can be a debilitating combination with many negative consequences. Problematic symptoms include:
- Low self-esteem.
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
- Poor concentration.
- Withdrawal and isolation.
- Low energy.
- Low motivation.
- Poor self-concept.
- Feelings of poor self-worth.
- Lack of pleasure.
- Lack of participation in relationships and life activities.
Consequently, problems develop in social functioning as poor communication, decreased drive and overall apathy influence social interactions.
Treatment of co-occurring marijuana use and mood problems can be challenging.
- Research shows that both need to be addressed at the same time. Otherwise, the unresolved problem is likely to trigger the other repeatedly, causing frequent relapses.
- Consequently, best treatment practices recommend treatment with providers specially trained in dual diagnosis intervention.
- Such professionals understand the interaction of marijuana use and mood problems. They can provide treatment that addresses these interactions so that both can be managed in a sustainable recovery.
Can Using Marijuana Cause Anxiety?
Research has shown that there is a significant relationship between marijuana use and anxiety problems. Anxiety issues have a wide range including: social, performance and generalized anxiety.
Marijuana use can induce anxiety problems and people with already existing anxiety are prone to self-medicate with marijuana. As with other mental health conditions, people who use marijuana and have an anxiety disorder require simultaneous treatment of both issues. A dual diagnosis program in which treatment addresses the interactions of marijuana use and anxiety is recommended. If one condition remains unresolved, relapse in both is likely to occur.
Marijuana use can induce anxiety problems and people with already existing anxiety are prone to self-medicate with marijuana.
As with other mental health conditions, people who use marijuana and have an anxiety disorder require simultaneous treatment of both issues.
A dual diagnosis program in which treatment addresses the interactions of marijuana use and anxiety is recommended. If one condition remains unresolved, relapse in both is likely to occur.
Marijuana and Psychosis
Psychosis and schizophrenia have been significantly linked to marijuana use. Studies have shown that there is an increased risk of these conditions in people who have used marijuana. There is also evidence that the risk increases with use of more potent marijuana and with more frequent use.
Psychosis and schizophrenia can severely impair daily functioning.
Marijuana and Dual Disorders
Marijuana use commonly co-occurs with mental health conditions and the combination can be debilitating. Psychological, social and behavioral problems arise and have negative effects upon daily functioning as well as longer term life outcomes.
- Marijuana use worsens the symptoms of mental health conditions due to the direct effects of the substance upon the brain.
- Also, marijuana use tends to coincide with poor illness management behaviors among those who suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosis and schizophrenia.
- Medication noncompliance and missed mental health appointments are common among those who use marijuana and have a mental illness that requires ongoing management (NAMI).
These combined factors can create chronic and problematic situations due to persistent symptoms, such as:
- Impaired memory.
- Problems with decision-making, problem-solving and overall cognition are common effects of marijuana use.
- Negative life outcomes associated with low educational achievement, unemployment, and low incomes have been associated with the chronic use of marijuana.
- Chronic social problems can be caused by both marijuana use and chronic mental health symptoms.
- Withdrawal and isolation are common in both conditions as are relationship problems.
Marijuana Addiction in Teens
Teen users of marijuana are at risk for several negative life outcomes. These include:
Poor educational achievement--teen marijuana use is associated with lower grades and test scores, less likelihood of attending college and higher high school dropout.
Poor peer and partner relationships in later life.
Cognitive impairments--a decline in IQ has been found in chronic users who began use in their teens and continued into adulthood. An average loss of eight IQ points from childhood to midlife has been reported.
Addiction--onset of marijuana use in the teens has been linked to later addiction to marijuana and other substances.
Psychiatric problems-- teen use of marijuana is associated with higher rates of psychosis in adult life.
- Those who have used by age 18 are 2-4 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia later in life.
- Also, research shows a correlation between repeated teen use and depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disorders.
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