Medical Marijuna Use and Mental Health
The potential medicinal properties of marijuana and its components have been the subject of research and debate for decades. THC has proven medical benefits in particular formulations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved THC-based medications, dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®), prescribed in pill form for the treatment of nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite in patients with wasting syndrome due to AIDS.
However, when it comes to mental health and conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other behavior-based illnesses, the evidence is much less clear. Because the benefits of THC for mental health are unclear, we do not recommend psychotropic drug use with THC. Use of this substance can greatly interfere with medications your provider may prescribe for you. This is not only counterproductive for you, but it can also be harmful to your health.
Long Term Effects
Little is known about the long-term impact of THC use by people with health, and/or age-related vulnerabilities—such as older adults or people with cancer, AIDS, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, or other neurodegenerative diseases. Further research will be needed to determine whether people whose health has been compromised by disease or its treatment (e.g., chemotherapy) are at greater risk for adverse health outcomes from marijuana use.
Possible side effects of medical marijuana may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Slower reaction times
- Negative drug-to-drug interactions
- Impaired short-term memory
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Increased appetite
- Potential for addiction
- Cyclic vomiting syndrome
- Hallucinations or mental illness
- Withdrawal symptoms
ADHD + THC Use
The use of THC for ADHD is not recommended, as it can have unpredictable effects and may worsen symptoms in some individuals.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The exact causes of ADHD are not fully understood, but it is believed to involve abnormalities in the brain’s dopamine and norepinephrine systems.
THC can affect these same neurotransmitter systems in the brain, which may contribute to its psychoactive effects. However, the effects of THC on ADHD symptoms are not well studied, and some people with ADHD may find that THC worsens their symptoms, particularly those related to attention and focus.
Furthermore, chronic use of marijuana has been associated with cognitive impairment and changes in brain structure, particularly in areas of the brain that are important for attention and memory. This can make it more difficult for people with ADHD to manage their symptoms and may further impair their cognitive abilities.
Depression + THC Use
The relationship between THC and depression is complex and not fully understood. Some people may find that THC helps to alleviate symptoms of depression, while others may find that it worsens their symptoms.
THC can affect the endocannabinoid system in the brain, which is involved in regulating mood, appetite, and sleep. It can also increase the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in reward and pleasure, which may contribute to the feelings of euphoria that some people experience when using marijuana.
At low doses, THC may produce a sense of relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety, which can be helpful for people with depression who also experience anxiety symptoms. However, at higher doses, THC may increase feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and panic, which can worsen symptoms of depression.
Additionally, long-term use of marijuana has been associated with an increased risk of developing depression, especially in people who are predisposed to the condition. This may be because chronic use of marijuana can lead to changes in brain chemistry and structure, as well as alterations in the endocannabinoid system.
Furthermore, some people may develop a tolerance to the effects of THC over time, which can make it less effective for managing depression symptoms. This may lead to increased use of marijuana or other substances, which can further exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Anxiety + THC Use
THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, can have complex effects on anxiety. Some people may find that THC reduces their anxiety, while others may find that it increases it. The effects of THC on anxiety may depend on a number of factors, including the dose, the person’s individual biology, and their previous experience with THC.
At low doses, THC may produce a sense of relaxation and calm, which may help to reduce feelings of anxiety. This is because THC can bind to receptors in the brain that are involved in regulating mood and anxiety, such as the CB1 receptor. THC can also increase the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in reward and pleasure, which may contribute to the feelings of relaxation and euphoria that some people experience when using marijuana.
However, at higher doses, THC may have the opposite effect and increase feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and panic. This may be because THC can also affect other receptors in the brain that are involved in regulating anxiety, such as the GABA receptor. High doses of THC can also cause changes in heart rate and blood pressure, which may contribute to feelings of anxiety and panic.
It is also worth noting that chronic use of marijuana has been associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. This is especially true for people who are predisposed to anxiety or who have a history of trauma or stress.