With the increasing legalisation of Marijuana across the world, it raises a lot of questions that haven’t been answered for mental health professionals and psychologists. Also given the very lax attitude in my experience of university security guards towards Marijuana, it is a very popular choice amongst young people. This only adds to the concern from psychologists and health professionals. So in this clinical psychology episode, we’re going to be investigating the pros and cons of Marijuana use.
This episode has been sponsored by Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments For Depression, Anxiety and More Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
What Are The Mental Health Pros and Cons of Marijuana Use?
Also I should mention that in addition to Marijuana use being legal in Canada and other places, in the United States Marijuana use for medical reasons is legal in 36 states, and using it for recreational use is legal in 18.
However, this does raise an awful amount of questions for psychologists as we all try to find our way through these rapidly changing times through research, informed opinions and policymaking. Yet despite a significant amount of recently conducted research on Marijuana use and its effects, there are still a lot of unanswered questions that we need to solve before we even begin to fully understand how to safely incorporate Marijuana use into our practices, and wider society.
What Are The Benefits of Marijuana Use For Mental Health?
As much as I love history, especially ancient times (I would hate to live there though), I have never paid much attention to their drug use. But other people have. Therefore, since ancient times, Marijuana has been used widely for its medical and euphoric effects. For example, Marijuana does have very strong anti-inflammatory effects that does help pain relief.
In addition, Marijuana can be used to reduce nausea in cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, and there is some evidence to suggest Marijuana could help those suffering from PTSD, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV/ AIDS and some forms of epilepsy.
Then just to make things even more interesting, there is some very early research that was conducted by the neuroscientist Gary Wenk that suggests Marijuana could be used to help prevent memory loss in ageing by reducing inflammation in the brain.
Of course, because of the research was done so long ago, it has to be redone with modern methods to test the findings. But it is still very interesting to reconsider.
In terms of psychotherapy, some clients use it to treat their insomnia, depression anxiety with varying levels of success. Yet it has to be noted sometimes it completely failed and it made the condition a lot worse.
Also Marijuana use in the over 60s has increased by 75% in the last three years with many of these people using Marijuana to help their chronic medical conditions and the anxiety that comes with ageing.
As well as with Marijuana’s so-called ability to “expand consciousness”. This leads to smokers and users having a better appreciation for the simple pleasures of life. Like, listening to music, being out in nature and enjoying good food.
Overall, in terms of benefits, I think it is very clear that there are some potential of Marijuana use for pain management and alleviating symptoms in other conditions. Yet given how there is not great certainty about it working every time and the negatives below, I’m still not convinced.
What Are The Negatives of Marijuana Use For Mental Health?
Moving onto the negatives, I do partly wish this would be a much shorter section than the positives. But it won’t be, because the negative effects are vast and they are even worse for adolescents and young adults (like university students). Since a recent study in New Zealand found that people who started using Marijuana in their early teens had long-term memory impairments with a lowering of IQ, poor academic and job performance as well as greater risk of depression later on in adulthood.
Additionally, for people who had traumatic backgrounds and adverse childhood experiences, they had a higher risk of developing this pattern of impairments. As well as they are four to seven times more likely to become dependent on Marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.
Personally, I think that’s simply tragic and I don’t want people to suffer at all with poor job and academic performance, and get an increased chance of suffering a mental health condition.
Moreover, Marijuana use causes an increase in impulsiveness, paranoia, apathy, heightened anxiety and impaired driving skills. This is most probably as a result of the higher strength and potency of THC (the psychoactive component) found in today’s Marijuana compared to the 1960s. With there being a greater risk of Marijuana triggering psychosis, even in people without a genetic predisposition of schizophrenia.
But what about adults?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually get any better for adults because all the negative effects that occur in young adults and adolescents happen in adults too.
Sure, there are some particularly effects that are more concerning in adolescents and young adults. For example, the brain still actively develops up until a person’s late 20s, so using Marijuana doesn’t exactly help brain health.
Also since 2019, in the United States ER rooms have seen dramatic increases in adolescents coming in for problems when Marijuana was involved. No one is exactly sure why but it is thought to be a combination of the rise of vaping, the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decreased perceived risk of Marijuana use.
Finally, there is a good amount of evidence that smoking Marijuana has harmful effects on the lungs. Since it has caused an increase in bronchitis and other chronic lung conditions.
A More Reflective Conclusion On Everything
Despite the benefits and dangers of Marijuana use discussed in this post, I should note that we do know a lot about Marijuana. We know that it can be effective in treating certain conditions and we know the dosage that is best in some situations amongst other things. However, if we also know we need a lot more research to help stamp out some of the questions and flesh out what we already know.
All this research will help us to understand what it is best for people, society and treatment as a whole.
Nonetheless, it is a shame that as a society we are moving very quickly towards Marijuana legalisation without knowing all the facts. Also it’s shame that tons of people think Marijuana is a lot less dangerous than alcohol, other drugs and other illegal substances when there is a great amount of evidence suggesting it is just as dangerous.
Overall, there is a lot more work that needs to be done, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Marijuana use, policymaking and psychotherapy as a whole.
I really hope you enjoyed this clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments For Depression, Anxiety and More Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Have a great day!
Clinical Psychology References:
Bourque J, Afzali MH, Conrod PJ. (2018). Association of Cannibis Use With Adolescent Psychotic Symptoms. JAMA Psychiatry.
Wu TC, Tashkin DP, Djaheb B, et al. (1988). Pulmonary hazards of smoking marijuana as compared to tobacco. New England J Med.
Boden JM, Dhakal B, Foulds JA, et al. (2019). Life-course trajectories of cannibis use: a latent class analysis of a New Zealand birth cohort. Addiction.
Marijuana/National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2019). www.drugabuse.gov.marijuana.
Cermak TL. (2020). From Bud To Brain: A Psychiatrist's View of Marijuana. Cambridge University Press.
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