Is there a link between marijuana use and depression? That’s a very good question, and one that has interested researchers for several years. The answer is not a clear yes or no answer and depends a lot on the individual.
Marijuana as an Antidepressant
In some cases, marijuana has actually been found to be an effective anti-depressant when used in small quantities, and it may also benefit people struggling with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or schizophrenia. These studies also suggest that there is little evidence that marijuana causes depression for light or occasional users.
For the 90% of users who smoke and can control their use, and only smoke occasionally, this almost certainly rings true. Light medicinal use may be effective for some mental health issues as well.
Marijuana Addiction and Depression
However, research indicates that marijuana may act as a depressant for heavy users, and frequent marijuana smokers are diagnosed with depression more often than non-users. The risk of depression may be compounded for people who use both marijuana and alcohol.
There are also strong indications that heavy marijuana use is more dangerous for adolescents. According to the University of Washington Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), people who use marijuana in early adolescence are more likely to experience depression and anxiety as young adults and later in life. The risk is strongest for young people who use marijuana daily.
The Chicken and the Egg
If depression and marijuana are linked, it is difficult to know which came first – the depression or the use of marijuana. Do people turn to marijuana as a way of self-medicating depression that is already present? Does this attempt to feel better actually make the situation worse as depression deepens and the dependence becomes more entrenched?
Does depression result solely from heavy use of the drug? Or are there other influences at play, such as social problems or family issues? Again, opinions abound, but nobody really knows for sure.
The Bottom Line
There is little doubt that there is at least some link between heavy marijuana use and depression, and that link may result in debilitating depression and deepening addiction. If you think marijuana use is causing or worsening your depression or anxiety, it’s critical to seek help as much as possible.
If you are smoking a bit of weed to relax or self-medicate, think twice, especially if you already struggle with depression. There’s a very good chance that you may make the problem much worse. Additionally, marijuana use is a very bad idea if you have a family history of depression, anxiety or other mental illness.