Marijuana's Impact on Mental Health

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Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is widely regarded as a harmless plant. In most developing countries around the world, the rate of daily and lifelong marijuana usage is steadily growing. However, research has accumulated that there is a high dependency risk as well as other negative consequences, especially in those who have pre-existing psychiatric conditions. As mentioned in the study, there is a connection between marijuana use and schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, suicidality, and addiction. Furthermore, under such circumstances, Marijuana can be used for self-medication, but only with the permission of a physician.

Effects of Marijuana Use on Mental Health


The most common current trend with marijuana in 2017 is that it has gained traction in the world, and therefore, more cannabis firms are starting to embrace an approach of farm-to-table to curating a specialized and unique marijuana products. The small, artisanal producers are as well gaining popularity in some biggest markets of cannabis including California, and there is a projection that they will have a continued popularity growth. Also, marijuana culture is becoming more professional. The culture is getting into the mainstream, implying that it is no longer hiding in the shadows.

There has been both national and international outcry for the legalization of marijuana with its support reaching a 58 percent high. It is almost the third time majority of the citizens have come up and supported the legalization of marijuana. The notion of legalizing marijuana has never been popular because only 12 percent had supported the course in 1969. Since then, the support for legalizing marijuana has primarily been increasing, thereby reaching 58 percent in 2013.

Therefore, habitual and heavy use of marijuana is dangerous, not only because it leads to an elevated risk of developing schizophrenia and social anxiety disorders, but also because there exists a clear relationship between the use of marijuana and suicidality.


Schizophrenia severe and chronic brain disorder, which affects almost one percent of the world’s population. It mostly influences individual behavior such as in feeling and thinking, as well as action. Patients with schizophrenia may tend to be as if they have lost their touch with reality. Although it is not a typical disorder when compared with other brain disorders, schizophrenia symptoms can sometimes be very disabling.

There is no known precise cause of schizophrenia, but various researchers including Rentzsch, Stadtmann, Montag, Kunte, Plöckl, Hellweg, and Jockers (2016) observe that it is heritable. The rationale for their findings is based on the fact that schizophrenia mental disorder has been found to be common in families. Moreover, people with schizophrenia family history accounts for almost 10 percent of people meeting the criteria for such diagnosis (Mallet, Ramoz, Strat, Gorwood, and Dubertret 2017). Schizophrenia can be caused by deficiencies in some neurotransmitters including the serotonin and dopamine brain chemicals that are in lower amounts, yet they are responsible for regulating an individual’s emotions. Additionally, some environmental influences also have the potential of triggering schizophrenia onset symptoms. The prenatal exposure to viruses and toxins and poor nutrition is capable of increasing the likelihood that an individual will display signs as well as symptoms of this brain disorder.

However, depending on the severity of the present symptoms, the schizophrenia that is not treated can have a adverse effect on the extent of devastating an individual’s life. Some of the common effects of untreated schizophrenia are such as isolation or social withdrawal, unemployment, increased conflict with other people, substance abuse, homelessness, suicidal ideation, interaction with the legal system, and self-injury.

There is a great correlation between the use of marijuana and schizophrenia. Rentzsch et al. (2016) found that schizophrenia plays an important role in the likelihood of an individual to smoke marijuana. Moreover, the genetic variations used in predicting this mental disorder can and be utilized for predicting an individual’s tendency in smoking weed, despite their history of psychological health. It is also apparent that there is a causal relationship between using marijuana and schizophrenia. Individuals who are at high risk for this mental disorder are more likely to use cannabis and in large quantities.

However, there are other potential counter-arguments. For instance, there is no difference in schizophrenia’s family history between those smoking marijuana and people who are not smoking (Mallet et al., 2017). Furthermore, even though there exists a connection between schizophrenia and smoking marijuana, there is a need for it to be shown in different studies of those using cannabis as compared to the individuals who are not using, and both should have a schizophrenia family history.

However, several scientific types of research studies have linked the use of marijuana to the increased risk of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, but it is not always clear as to whether as well as to what extent it causes these conditions.


Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or even unease on something that has an uncertain outcome. In addition, anxiety is a strong desire for doing something or for something to happen. It is not a random, uncontrollable, or unknown illness or disease that a person develops, contract, or inherit, but it comes as a result of a specific type of behavior.

Genetics is a significant cause of anxiety. Individuals with first-degree relatives, including siblings or parents, and with the anxiety disorders are at a higher risk to develop such complications as well. It is crucial to note that while several people have a genetic predisposition to anxiety; most people developing this disorder are not having a family history. Brain chemistry such as the abnormal levels of some neurotransmitters can cause anxiety. Neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin help in controlling anxiety, and therefore, their low levels may signal a danger of stress (Norton, Abbott, Norberg & Hunt, 2015). Moreover, brain parts responsible for regulating memory, emotion, and fear are susceptible to the unpredictable or unfamiliar situation, which can possibly result in the development of this disorder.

Narr and Teachman (2017) observe that generalized effects characterize anxiety. Individuals living with unmanaged and untreated pervasive anxiety disorder are at high risk of facing uncountable consequences and effects because anxiety disorder has the potential of affecting all aspects of one’s life. Some common symptoms of living with unmanaged and untreated anxiety are such as sleep disturbances, incapability of fulfilling responsibilities at work, home, or school. Others include marital and family problems, agoraphobia, the inability of performing tasks accurately and quickly, inability of normally interacting with others, feeling incapable of solving problems, loss of motivation, self-injury, and loss of self-esteem caused by helplessness/hopelessness feelings, as well as suicidal behaviors and thoughts.

As compared with schizophrenia, there is also a correlation between anxiety and the use of marijuana. Their relationship is incredibly complex. Acute anxiety is the most commonly known reaction towards marijuana use as it makes the user to become fearful of going insane or even dying. Moreover, mounting anxiety can sometimes result in panic as no psychosis reaction is involved and also no hallucinations. In other words, (Norton et al., 2015). have linked the use of marijuana to anxiety problems, both making anxiety worse or even on its own causing anxiety.

However, several studies have laid down counter-arguments concerning the use of marijuana and anxiety. Norton et al. (2015) point that university students usually utilize cannabis as a coping mechanism to deal with their social anxiety. Even though their use of marijuana could temporarily alleviate their symptoms of anxiety, they can have many other complications that can have an impact on their success. Conversely, scientific research conducted by Norton et al. (2015) concluded that university students who regularly use marijuana have an elevated likelihood to experience the disorders of anxiety later in life.


Depression is a serious and a common medical illness that negatively affects how an individual feel, think and act. Fortunately, unlike other mental disorders, depression is treatable. Schizophrenia causes feelings of loss of interest in various activities once enjoyed, including feelings of sadness. Schizophrenia can result in multiple physical and emotional problems and can and decrease one’s capability of functioning at home and at work.

There is little known about a singular cause of depression although, genetic, environmental, and physical reasons may force individuals to develop depression. The most commonly known causes of depression include the improperly balanced levels of neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin, which are the brain chemicals responsible for regulating mood. Genetics also causes depression as (Osuch et al., 2016) found that genetics run in families. Patients having a first-degree relative such as a parent or sibling with this mental disorder are at higher risks for developing depression as compared to patients without the same family history. Environmental factors such as major stressors and adverse life events can as well be associated with the onset of depression, such as unemployment, trauma, death of loved one, problematic relationships, as well as lack of a satisfactory social network.

Depression can have a significant impairment effect on a person’s ability of enjoying life, when left untreated. The effects of this mental disorder can range from simple annoyances to death. However, with appropriate interventions, depression can be managed throughout one’s lifetime. Its most common effects include poor coping skills, sexual dysfunction, pain particularly stomach pain and headaches, anxiety, reduced functioning of immune system, marital and family problems, rejection at work or school, self-mutilation, social isolation, suicide, and premature death under medical conditions (Schuster, Mermelstein & Wakschlag, 2013).

Research conducted by Rentzsch et al. (2016) suggest that smokers of marijuana are more often diagnosed with depression as compared to non-users, particularly those who regularly and heavily use marijuana. However, Schuster et al. (2013) hold that it does not appear that cannabis directly leads to the onset of depression. Regular use of marijuana can impact on the complex mental processes by affecting the neurotransmitters including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as well as the transmission of glutamate. Therefore, dysregulation of even a single of these neurotransmitters can lead to the onset of depression.

On the contrary, a study conducted by Osuch et al. (2016) concluded that the use of marijuana by adults is not linked with any form of anxiety, but is rather linked with the development of substance abuse such as tobacco, alcohol, including dependence. Besides, several users of marijuana argue that cannabis helps them to feel more relaxed, happier, and less depressed. In fact, various elements found in cannabis can be effectual to treat symptoms of depressive disorders, and and elevate the likelihood to develop depression.

However, scientific research conducted by Schuster et al. (2013) determined that the chronic utilization of exogenous cannabinoids such as the THC in cannabis can result in the down-regulation of the cannabinoid receptors leading to a more depressant effect.


There is a risk or a likelihood of a person completing suicide. However, this term is not useful clinically as a more scientific or medical terminology. Suicide remains the primary public health concern, and thus factors for predicting and protecting against suicidal behaviors should be better understood for the purpose of developing prevention as well as intervention strategies.

Suicidal causes are not considered to be as a result of a single factor, but somewhat the interplay of physical, genetic, as well as environmental risk factors. It can be caused by genetics in which individuals born from families where the first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, completed or attempted suicide are at a higher risk for the suicidal ideation. Moreover, individuals with family history of substance abuse or mental illness are as well at a higher risk for suicidal behavior and ideation. It can also be caused by physical factors including changes in the brain’s neurotransmitters. More so, persons who attempted committing suicide have a notable reduction in the neurotransmitter serotonin levels (Buckner, Joiner, Schmidt, and Zvolensky 2012). The environmental factor is also a possible cause of suicide. Nonetheless, living or growing up in a homestead where violence was present has the potential of increasing suicidal ideation risk (Shalit, Shoval, Shlosberg, Feingold, and Lev 2016). Furthermore, being exposed to the suicidal behavior of peers, friends, and family members also has the ability to increase the risks of suicidal behavior.

Suicidal attempts have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to enjoy good and happy life. Suicide behaviors and an attempt can leave behind several devastating effects not only for the person who wanted to commit suicide but also to those around them including loved ones and family members. Some common effects of suicide are such as shame, anger, damage to the vital organs, coma, guilt, self-loathing, brain death, seizures, and ultimately death.

In their research, Buckner, Joiner, Schmidt and Zvolensky (2012) found that the use of marijuana is significantly related to both the attempted as well as completed suicides among the healthy youths. It implies that the young youths who regularly use cannabis are at a higher risk of suicide ideation. Furthermore, Shalit et al. (2016) note that the frequent use of marijuana predicts later suicidal ideation, particularly in susceptible males only but not females. The earlier that this heavy utilization of cannabis first occurred as well as the higher the frequency of its use, faster the susceptible persons' experienced thoughts of suicide.

On the contrary, even though there is a strong relationship between suicide and the use of marijuana as explained by markers of both behavioral and psychological problems, using marijuana cannot make an individual commit suicide. Moreover, the use of cannabis is unlikely to have a strong effect on an individual’s risk of completing suicide, either directly or even as a mental health consequence, such as the problems secondary to marijuana use.

Conversely, research conducted by Shalit et al. (2016) found that individuals smoking weed on a daily basis have more thoughts of completing suicide. Moreover, heavy weed smokers often feel more burdensome and more alienated to others as compared to those who regularly smoke less.


Addiction is regarded as a complex brain disease condition, which is being manifested by the use of compulsive substance regardless of its harmful consequence. Individuals with addiction are characterized by a dominant focus to use a particular substance including drugs or alcohol to the extent that it entirely takes over their life. These persons tend to continue using the drug or alcohol even when they very well know that it will cause significant problems in their life (Monaghan, Hamilton, Lloyd, and Paton, 2016). Fortunately, many effective treatments can be used to make people fully recover from addiction and once again lead a productive and a normal life.

Several mental health, as well as addiction specialists, believe that a particular single factor does not just cause addiction but through a combination of environmental, genetic, and the psychological factors. Some of the most famous causes of addiction include genetic; thus, once an individual start using a particular drug, addiction may develop, in part, as a result of the inherited genetic factors (Fischer, Russell, Sabioni, Brink, Foll, Halln, and Room, 2017). Besides, individuals with family members who had addiction or problems with substance abuse in the past are at a higher risk to develop an addiction disorder.

Environmental factors can as well cause addiction. For instance, family attitudes and beliefs towards having peers or use of drugs can both make an individual start using stimulants to the extent of becoming entirely addicted.

If addiction is not well managed and treated, there will be a higher potential risk for developing several adverse effects in all aspects of a person’s life. In some situations, these adverse effects may have the capability of being life-threatening. However, particularly long-term effects of addiction will vary in accordance with the type of drug being abused as well as individual characteristics of the user. The most commonly known effects of addiction are such as dental problems, loss of sexual function, brain damage, depression, and panic attacks. Others include delusions, unemployment, marriage issues including divorce, stroke, high risk of contracting STIs, long-term heart problems, anxiety, anorexia, psychosis, legal issues, academic difficulties, heart attack, coma, and even death.

Marijuana is an addictive substance. According to Monaghan, Hamilton, Lloyd and Paton (2016), of all the people using marijuana, almost one in ten will become addicted. Moreover, when a young individual starts smoking marijuana during his/her teenage, he/she will have a one in five chance to become addicted. Besides, the use of marijuana can result in the development of marijuana use disorder problem, which in more cases takes the form of addiction.

The Use of Marijuana to Self-Medicate

Cannabis can be used by individuals for self-medication purposes as it is cheap and can be readily accessed. Currently, there are more than 4,000 marijuana dispensaries across the country. Most of these clinics, which are also legal depending on the laws of their respective states, come in sizes and shapes, such as recreational or medicinal, chain or boutique, mortar, and brick or delivery. Importantly, their most crucial variable is price, and thus even with a little amount; one can purchase a portion of marijuana from one of these dispensaries.

A study conducted by Park and Wu (2017) observed that self-medicating with marijuana is detrimental to the health of an individual. It has significant effects on a person’s nervous system. Marijuana’s primary psychoactive compound, the THC molecules can attach itself to the anandamide receptors in different parts of a human’s nervous system during self-medication thus causing a significant health issue to that person. Depending upon several variable and complex factors, the mediated boost by THC in dopamine activity can make an individual to have false feelings of brilliant, imaginative, painless, and comfortable, or even sometimes can elevate paranoia and set one’s heart to race beyond normal, or even interfere with the memory. Therefore, people should not use marijuana for self-medication or should do it in the presence of a physician.

On the contrary, Quinlan, Valenti, Barovier, Rots and Harding (2015) argues that self-medication with marijuana is not detrimental to an individual’s health as most people have self-medicated with it on the whole, and they felt that it assisted them enough to be worth its side effects. Furthermore, it’s not much about the substance cannabis, but it is all about how an individual is using it. For instance, alcohol is legal and can be used for several medication purposes, but more and more people still die as a result of alcoholism yearly than all other combined addictions.

Also, most states have authorized marijuana as a medication substance, particularly for a limited number of various medical conditions, such as “intractable pain” which is the unrelieved pain by the standard medical treatments as well as medications. Besides, individuals who have mental illness have been granted the legal right of using marijuana for self-medicating, because it works best for them as compared to other treatments available.


It is apparent that habitual and heavy use of marijuana is dangerous. It can result in a chronic severe mental disorder, schizophrenia, which affects one’s thinking, feelings, and behavior. Therefore, smoking marijuana seriously alters the chemistry of the brain to the extent of causing schizophrenia. Moreover, smoking cannabis can result in genetic abnormalities that are associated with the mental illness thereby triggering delusions and hallucinations that are similar to schizophrenia symptoms. Additionally, using marijuana can cause suicidality including both the completed and attempted suicides, particularly among the youths. Moreover, frequently using marijuana can predict later suicidal ideation.

Marijuana user should seek psycho-education. Even though there are several misconceptions concerning the use of marijuana, an important treatment component would be to educate an addict on both the facts and dangers of using the substance.

In addition, addict should seek the services of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy responsible for teaching these addicts the strategies of identifying and correcting problematic behaviors to enhance self-control, stopping drug use and addressing a variety of other problems that usually co-occur with them.

The addict should seek help from the clinical psychiatrists and psychologists. These are trained specialists responsible for identifying and later on treating marijuana addictions through psychotherapy or any means of behavioral treatment. Importantly, seeking assistance from a clinical psychiatrists or psychologist is hugely recommended for the heavy users of marijuana or even those in denial.


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Buckner, J.D., Joiner, T.E., Schmidt, N.B. & Zvolensky, M.J. (2012). Daily marijuana use and suicidality: The unique impact of social anxiety. Addictive Behaviors, 37(4), 387-392. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2011.11.019

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Mallet, J., Ramoz, N., Strat, Y., Gorwood, P. & Dubertret, C. (2017). Heavy cannabis use prior psychosis in schizophrenia: clinical, cognitive and neurological evidences for a new endophenotype? European Archives of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience, 267(7), 629-638. doi:10.1007/s00406-017-0767-0

Monaghan, M., Hamilton, I., Lloyd, C. & Paton, K. (2016). Cannabis matters? Treatment responses to increasing cannabis presentations in addiction services in England. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 23(1), 54-61.

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Norton, A.R.,. J., Norberg, M.M. & Hunt, C. (2015). A Systematic Review of Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71(4), 283-301.

Osuch, E.A., Manning, K., Hegele, R.A., Théberge, J., Neufeld, R., Mitchell, D. & ... Gardner, R. C. (2016). Depression, marijuana use and early-onset marijuana use conferred unique effects on neural connectivity and cognition. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 134(5), 399-409. doi:10.1111/acps.12629

Park, J. & Wu, L. (2017). Prevalence, reasons, perceived effects, and correlates of medical marijuana use: A review. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 1771-13. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.03.009

Quinlan, K.J., Valenti, M., Barovier, L., Rots, G. & Harding, W. (2015). Community-based environmental strategies to prevent the non-medical use of marijuana: A review of the literature. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 22(4), 316-333.

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Schuster, R., Mermelstein, R. & Wakschlag, L. (2013). Gender-Specific Relationships Between Depressive Symptoms, Marijuana Use, Parental Communication and Risky Sexual Behavior in Adolescence. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 42(8), 1194-1209.

Shalit, N., Shoval, G., Shlosberg, D., Feingold, D. & Lev-Ran, S. (2016). The association between cannabis use and suicidality among men and women: A population-based longitudinal study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 205216-224. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.07.010

January 13, 2023

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