Ways Cannabis Affects Mental Health

Can cannabis cause reefer madness, or is it actually a key to a mellower outlook? Here's how cannabis affects mental health, per science.

Alexandra Gavillet

Once upon a time, there was an anti-cannabis propaganda film that was called Reefer Madness. As the name suggests, the entire film was about how marijuana smoking will turn you into a crazed lunatic who may end up killing people as a result of toking up. 

For the longest time, law enforcement actually promoted this kind of detrimental view of cannabis - but most potheads can tell you that it's far from the truth. That being said, marijuana can affect your mental health. 

Here's what you need to know about the affects of pot smoking on your mind. 

Marijuana smoking can cause hallucinations and exacerbate schizophrenia.

I know, I know, this isn't going to be popular, but it's been backed by studies. 

If you've smoked pot, you might have had some moments where you thought you heard something you didn't. This is actually rather common, and the fact is that even stoners may tell you that it happens. Most commonly, this happens to new smokers. 

What a number of studies have shown is that a small fraction of users who may have had mild schizophrenia may actually have those symptoms exacerbated because of pot smoking. This makes sense, since the number one sign of schizophrenia is auditory hallucinations. 

That being said, the studies that were cited happened to be linked to anti-cannabis groups. So, you may want to take this with a grain of salt. 

You may end up with fuzzy memory.

Image by Oliver Sacks

Multiple studies showed that people who smoke pot regularly had a tendency to have a harder time remembering things than those who didn't. Much of this shouldn't come as a surprise to potheads. After all, who hasn't forgotten something while smoking a joint?

Regular cannabis use has also been linked to a slightly higher risk of depression.

Business Insider reported that studies showed that there was a connection between depression and cannabis use. However, it's not quite sure what the correlation is. The scientists made a point of saying that correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation. 

So, it could be that depressed people are using pot to alleviate their depression symptoms. Or, it could be that there's a compound in marijuana that may put people who use it regularly at a slight risk of depression. It's not quite certain. 

There is some science that suggests that this risk may be due to a genetic serotonin issue that THC can exacerbate. If the serotonin levels get too low, you may end up being depressed. So, that's something you may want to worry about. 

Another study went out of its way to say that cannabis does NOT cause anxiety or depression. So, it's looking like researchers found out that depressed people tend to turn to pot when regular meds don't work. 

But, it's also been established that THC makes you feel good.

THC compounds light up the reward parts of your brain - just like eating food or having sex. The fact is that's why people smoke pot; they want to feel good. 

However, there was a major caveat that might explain the link with depression in this study. According to the study, excessive marijuana use may end up "numbing" your brain to the positive rewards of other aspects of your life. 

This suggests that moderation is key - as is the case with most things in life. 

Marijuana has been very strongly linked to improved PTSD symptoms.

PTSD-affected soldiers have been found to have less symptoms of their trauma when they regularly smoke pot. The study that showed this to be true also suggested that it may be time to consider using pot like any other form of drug out there. 

Needless to say, the evidence that it helps with PTSD is very, very strong. 

Studies have shown that marijuana smoking can also treat ADHD.

Have a hard time sitting down and focusing? Want to jump out of your skin when you sit at a desk? According to a slew of studies, marijuana can help calm you down to the point that you can live a healthy, normal life without being overly hyper. 

As a result of the huge number of studies showing its benefits, many therapists are arguing for the use of marijuana as a valid ADHD medicine. Moreover, it's also been noted as a good way to alleviate side effects for classic ADHD medicines like Adderall. 

Either way, it looks promising! 

Scientists have also noticed that marijuana smoking can help with eating disorders.

Cannabinoids have long been known to stimulate appetite - or, as we stoners call it, the munchies. Considering that effect, it's understandable why cannabis has a lot of promise as a medical tool in fighting eating disorders like anorexia, orthorexia, and EDNOS. 

VICE magazine noted that the calming effect of cannabis often helps eating disordered people avoid the anxiety that often causes sufferers to starve themselves, binge eat, or binge-and-purge 

Yes, marijuana can be used to treat anxiety - but only if it's low in THC and high in CBD.

A surprisingly large number of studies have been done on medical marijuana usage for anxiety. And, the results have been mixed until scientists actually broke down the studies to take a look at the different compounds in marijuana. 

THC has been linked to higher anxiety effects in patients, so smoking a blunt filled with THC is a bad idea if you're anxious. However, CBD has been shown to alleviate anxiety on the long term and short term. 

As of right now, the overall verdict seems to be that marijuana can definitely be used to medicate for anxiety.  

Unsurprisingly, cannabis also can have an effect on insomnia.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

Having a hard time sleeping? If you suffer from acute insomnia, then you already know how bad it can affect your moods and your ability to just live a normal life. 

According to studies, people who smoke pot have an easier time falling asleep, and also tend to have a deeper, more satisfying slumber than those who are sober. The compound that makes this happen? It's THC, plain and simple. 

Lastly, it can make you more creative.

This one shouldn't be too surprising for most potheads. Anecdotally, many famous authors smoked up when they wrote their biggest hits - and it was often something they did as an outlet under duress. 

Studies show that people who are more creative tend to be more productive at work and that marijuana does improve creativity. So, at the very least, there's some good benefits to your creativity with cannabis. 

Whether or not being uncreative is a doctor-worthy problem, though, remains to be seen. 

Skunk Uzeki
Skunk Uzeki

Skunk Uzeki is an androgynous pothead and a hard partier.  When they aren't drinking and causing trouble, they're writing articles about the fun times they have. 

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Ways Cannabis Affects Mental Health