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The Negative Effects of Cannabis on Mental Health

two glass bottles next to fresh cannabis

The ancients said that too much of anything is poisonous. This adage applies to cannabis and other medically beneficial herbs. While marijuana comes with many therapeutic benefits, its prolonged abuse can be counterproductive. Consuming cannabis daily or near-daily and in large amounts can negatively affect your mental health. For instance, it can cause disorientation and unpleasant thoughts. You may also experience anxious feelings.

Many marijuana abusers also experience temporary psychosis or hallucinations and long-lasting mental disorders. This post examines these adverse consequences in more detail. Keep reading to learn where to draw the line for safe marijuana consumption.

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Where Do You Draw the Line?

We started by saying that marijuana abuse can cause various mental problems. However, drawing the line linking cannabis abuse to mental health challenges isn’t as easy as it sounds. The reason is that cannabis affects individuals differently. Therefore, predicting who will experience negative consequences is challenging. For example, one user can experience euphoria and relaxed feelings, while another may feel anxious and paranoid.

What factors determine an individual’s personal experiences and long-term effects of weed? Below are some factors influencing individual outcomes for cannabis users.

  • The cannabis quantity someone consumes. 
  • One’s usage frequency.
  • The form of cannabis a person consumes, for instance, its potency and purity.
  • A user’s mental and physical size, weight, and health. 
  • The user’s environment.
  • The user’s personality type.

Based on the above factors, determining that cannabis single-handedly caused one’s mental health challenges becomes problematic. The evidence might be weak, but the rule of thumb is to watch out for the following risk factors in users: 

  • For users with schizophrenia and other psychoses, a cannabis consumption history may be connected to the escalation of problems.
  • Regular cannabis consumption at high doses increases the possibility of developing depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • For people diagnosed with bipolar disorders, near-daily marijuana usage may be connected to increased bipolar disorder symptoms than for non-consumers.

Cannabis’s Negative Impact on Mental Health

overhead view of clear glass bottles and fresh cannabis

It’s essential to examine some possible mental effects heavy and prolonged cannabis abuse can have on one’s mental health. You may get more insights regarding cannabis side effects at  https://askgrowers.com/blog/what-are-the-side-effects-of-thc-cannabis.

Depression

While using marijuana to remedy depression symptoms and other emotional pain is beneficial, please don’t overdo it. If you pursue this path long enough, you might risk increasing the same symptoms. Some experts warn that this possibility is high among long-term heavy and regular smokers. However, they don’t say that cannabis causes depression. Instead, the medics only warn it could increase existing depression symptoms. Thus, smokers who prefer THC-rich marijuana often remain with a depressive effect on their emotions and feelings after the high goes away.

Distorted Thinking 

Continued marijuana abuse can also distort your thinking. The reason is that it temporarily clouds your senses and judgment. However, these effects vary depending on other factors like the consumption mode, marijuana’s potency, and how much someone has been using marijuana in the past. Based on these factors, cannabis might: 

  • Heighten your mental senses, for example, by making colors appear brighter and sounds seem louder.
  • Distort your sense of time.
  • Impair your motor skills, making driving riskier.
  • Reduce your sense of caution and restraint (e.g., by making you engage in reckless sexual activity).

Impaired Brain Development 

Consuming cannabis from a young age can negatively affect a person’s brain development. Its abuse affects a person’s synaptic pruning and white matter brain development. Cannabis abuse can also harm a young person’s brain structure. Thus, teens are the most vulnerable to neurodevelopment and structural changes weed causes. However, with real rates of weed use among teens differing from the official statistics, more studies are needed to come to more conclusive results on the impact of weed on the teen brain. 

It Can Get You “High”

Cannabis rich in THC can make you “high.” THC stimulates the brain part responsible for responding to pleasure, such as sex and food. The stimulation releases dopamine, a hormone that creates euphoric, relaxed feelings. Vaping or smoking marijuana activates THC faster and allows it to enter your bloodstream within seconds or minutes. This effect peaks in about half an hour and may disappear after one to three hours. Eating or drinking marijuana makes this sensation last longer before you regain sobriety. 

It May Impair Your Brain Permanently 

Smoking marijuana high on THC can temporarily impair your brain. It makes focusing, remembering, and learning things harder. However, the impairment can last for years if users start smoking cannabis at a young age. If the habit is not handled properly, imaging tests on some teenagers reveal that heavy marijuana abuse may physically change their brain structures. These images show that victims have fewer connections in their brain parts linking to:

  • Focus and alertness. 
  • Learning.
  • Memory.
  • IQ scores.

Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses

Cannabis abuse may increase schizophrenia risk. The risk level depends on how heavily one consumes the plant. People with schizophrenia and psychosis usually experience the effect of weed in three ways:  

  • Delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized motor behavior. 
  • Diminished emotional expressions, reduced interest in social interactions, and impaired speech.
  • Impaired cognition. 

However, all these conclusions regarding the connection between psychosis and cannabis are general and have no specific diagnosis. The findings only suggest that cannabis use may affect people with different mental disorders in the following ways: 

  • It worsens their symptoms.
  • It increases delusions.
  • Cannabis might increase hospitalization chances for psychosis.
  • It weakens treatment.
  • Complicate recovery from a psychotic disorder.

So, our bottom line remains that nobody can authoritatively say that marijuana directly causes schizophrenia. However, it can cause symptoms if a person or their family has a history of mental health challenges. Such individuals are more at risk than cannabis users without this history. 

Social Anxiety 

Lastly, prolonged marijuana abuse can cause a social anxiety disorder. Many marijuana consumers use it to reduce tension and feel more relaxed. On the other hand, experts have observed that anxiety and panic reactions are common effects of consuming THC-rich cannabis. This way, marijuana intoxication usually makes people more anxious. 

The researchers associate this effect with several factors, which significantly differ among individuals. Some of these factors are: 

  • A user’s individual and genetic vulnerability. 
  • An individual’s personality traits.
  • Female sex. 
  • Irregular usage. 
  • High-dosage consumption.  
  • High THC/low CBD variants. 
  • A history of past anxiety episodes.
  • Existing anxiety disorder or its symptoms. 
  • One’s basal anxiety condition. 
  • A user’s abstinence state.
  • Consumption context and environment. 

But despite these varying factors, experts also agree that THC reduces anxiety when taken in lower doses and increases it when consumed in higher dosages. Like with other effects, more studies are necessary to give more conclusive results. The reason is that most clinical studies behind these findings lean towards the current federal hardline stand against cannabis and are used to fuel user caution instead of educating consumers on safe dosage and use guidelines.  

How Do Different Types of Cannabis Affect Mental Health?

Now, let’s determine if different cannabis types affect one’s mental health differently. To get to the matter’s heart, we have to revisit the fact that cannabis contains two main active ingredients, which produce different mental effects on users’ minds – THC and CBD. The former is the plant’s primary psychoactive element, making people feel “high.” This component produces negative mental effects. Inversely, CBD has no such effects. 

Therefore, we can say that only users who consume products with high THC levels, such as butane hash oil, are more likely to suffer adverse mental consequences. They may experience higher risks of depression, anxiety, and psychosis. 

The good news is that using cannabis products with high CBD levels has the opposite effect. For instance, CBD has promising potential for dealing with depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Besides, THC also has many medicinal benefits when used safely and properly. So, you only need to consult your doctor before using weed products with various THC and CBD concentrations to find the right fit for your health conditions. 

Parting Shot

Despite its many benefits, prolonged cannabis abuse can have short-term and long-term consequences on one’s mental health. Research has shown that marijuana abuse indeed affects users’ mental health, but risk factors vary among individuals. 

Moreover, most findings suggest that cannabis mostly aggravates the existing mental health issues but doesn’t cause their onset. Thus, we hope this information will help you evaluate the risk and benefit ratio for weed use wisely, enjoying the health benefits of weed in a safe way. 

This article was written by Tia Moskalenko, an expert on responsible and safe weed use at AskGrowers. Tia works in the sphere of user education and keeps close ties with cannabis producers to share the latest findings in this industry with consumers.

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