Due to a steady decline in the perception of the risks associated with marijuana, a large number of youngsters have been digressing toward this substance. Other major shifts that have exacerbated the situation include the recent public debates on the legalization of marijuana. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States, with 22.2 million people abusing it in the past month. The survey also highlighted that the majority of the users are men than women.
Marijuana, commonly known as weed, is derived from the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. Despite the medicinal use of marijuana, several studies have linked marijuana use with psychiatric disorders, such as psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, etc. Depending on various factors, such as early exposure, frequency, dose and duration, one has an increased chance of developing a range of psychiatric disorders due to the abuse of marijuana.
The genetic vulnerability of the user also plays a crucial role in exacerbating the problem. During adolescence (between 10 and 19 years), the brain undergoes important stages of development and using marijuana at this point can hamper the synaptic pruning (deletion of old neural connections) and the development of white brain matter (that relays signals in the brain). The main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which upon consumption impacts the key regions of the brain associated with regulating emotions.
Close relationship between marijuana use and anxiety
Many studies have been conducted to assess the relationship between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. However, the relationship among the two is clearly complex due to the involvement of many other variables, such as motive of the users behind using marijuana and other external conditions.
A longitudinal study examined the association between marijuana use, mood and anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders (SUD). Despite the mixed findings of the study, the research revealed that cannabis use is increasingly associated with SUD that spikes the risk of developing mental disorders.
A 2014 meta-analysis had established a positive relationship between anxiety and cannabis use. Similarly, another study concluded that there is an increased risk of developing depressive disorders with heavy cannabis use. However, it could not be established whether it was a causal association, i.e., whether marijuana use was responsible for causing depression. It is interesting to note that anxiety disorders and marijuana use share a complex relationship. While most people experience a euphoric and relaxing effect due to marijuana, some also experience anxiety or paranoia.
Early exposure to marijuana spikes chances of developing psychotic symptoms
Many studies have substantiated the relationship between marijuana use and psychosis. One such study demonstrated an increased risk of developing psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, and schizophrenia among adults who had used marijuana in adolescence. The risk spikes when such people simultaneously carry a specific variant of the gene for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine.
Additional factors, such as a family history of psychosis, history of childhood abuse, etc., also influence the relationship, it is quite a difficult task to establish a more accurate role of marijuana in causing psychosis. Nonetheless, there is a strong similarity between the severe and brief effects of marijuana use and the symptoms of psychosis, including impaired memory, cognition and processing of external stimuli, which result in delusions and hallucinations.
Lead a drug-free life
It is also known that people afflicted with psychotic disorders could aggravate already existing symptoms by consuming marijuana. A meta-analytical study established that marijuana use triggers the early onset of psychosis by an average of 2.7 years. The regular users of marijuana are at twice the risk of developing psychosis than nonusers.
The treatment for dual diagnosis or coexisting conditions, such as SUD and mental disorders, needs to target both the conditions to produce effective and lasting results. The sooner an individual receives treatment for co-occurring conditions, greater are the chances of a successful recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction-related problems coupled with psychiatric disorders, the Dual Diagnosis Helpline can assist you in finding the best dual diagnosis rehab centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline 855-981-6047 or chat online to know about various dual diagnosis facilities in your vicinity.