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Marijuana & Anxiety

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

New York State has now become the 15th state to legalize marijuana for recrea

tional use, effective immediately. With the passing of this bill, there are many questions and concerns being raised from mental health and drug addiction counselors, and rightfully so. While marijuana may be safe for some to use recreationally, many people that are prone towards obsessive behaviors (or other mental health disorders) could be at a greater risk of addiction.

Marijuana As A Treatment For Anxiety While it’s common for cannabis to have some short term benefits, there is also evidence that shows it can actually worsen symptoms of anxiety over time. But many researchers admit we need to “proceed with caution” when discussing whether cannabis can be helpful in treating anxiety-related disorders. With the current trend of CBD being used for everything from migraine relief to pain management to yes, anxiety reduction, many forget that this use should be managed under the care of a healthcare provider and/or mental health counselor. But here are the facts….Marijuana can provide SHORT TERM RELIEF of anxiety symptoms but when the effect of THC subsides, people are back to having to find a way to deal with anxiety. Avoiding dealing with “everyday anxiety” can cause someone to lose the skills of dealing with anxiety. This can cause intense mood swings, irritability and difficulty managing relationships. Putting off or “numbing out” anxiety doesn’t allow us the opportunity to actually build resilience to deal with the anxiety. Dealing with anxiety is a skill that needs to be built and developed, “avoiding” the emotion does not give us the practice to face these feelings and practice positive coping skills. Mental Health There are numerous studies that show an increased risk of developing psychosis when using marijuana long term. For example, recent research suggests that smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times compared to people who have never used marijuana (1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that heavy or frequent marijuana users are more likely to experience suicidal ideation, social anxiety, and worsened symptoms of bipolar disorder while continued marijuana use has shown to cause memory problems later in life. Dependency and Teen Use There is a common misconception that marijuana is not an addictive drug. However studies have shown that cannabis dependency is a very real thing. Withdrawal symptoms include difficulty sleeping, anger, aggression, irritability, restlessness, loss of appetite, depression and headaches. The risks of becoming dependent are higher among teens. Many teens are under the impression that marijuana has no consequences and can do no harm. There are so many developmental changes happening in teens. Common effects marijuana use can have on teens include memory loss, difficulty paying attention and poor decision making. Many parents have the misconception that the marijuana being smoked today is the same as it was from their younger days, 20 years ago. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has conducted analyses on the changes in potency of marijuana over time and findings show the marijuana of today has a THC percentage 3-4 times higher than it was 20 years ago, making it much more addictive. Further, adolescents are engaging in other methods of using marijuna such as the use of edibles, dabbing, waxes and THC liquids for pens. These products historically have higher potency of THC than traditional marijuana cigarettes.

Parenting Practices Parenting an adolescent comes with significant challenges, including fears about their health and safety. Not sure how to begin the conversation? Here are some conversation starters

  • “Hey I heard about the legalization of marijuana, what do you think about that?”

  • “I sometimes worry that due to our family history of addiction, you have a higher risk for developing a drug or alcohol problem”.

Wondering what else can you do to help? Educating your teens on the effects and risks of marijuana use is really important. Find help right away if you notice signs of a substance use disorder. Our mental health professionals are licensed in treating addiction and substance abuse-related issues.

Di Forti M, Quattrone D, Freeman TP, et al. The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study. The Lancet 2019;6(5);427-436 doi. 10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30048-3

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