Does Marijuana Make Anxiety Better Or Worse?

Marijuana is often thought of as a depressant, as many people report feelings of relaxation, laughter, slowed reaction time, and even euphoria when using the drug (via National Institute on Drug Abuse). But did you know that marijuana is also categorized as a stimulant? (via National Library of Medicine). For this reason, smoking cannabis can have mixed outcomes for people using marijuana to cope with feelings of stress or anxiety. In fact, research indicates that the differences between short-term effects and long-term effects of usage can vary greatly (via VeryWellMind).

In a close examination of over thousands of studies, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that the compounds found in marijuana are an effective means of relieving chronic pain and therefore, is sometimes medically prescribed to individuals diagnosed with painful cancers (via Medical News Today). Researchers also found evidence to indicate that marijuana may have the potential to help combat other substance abuse disorders, such as opioid addiction. For many, the main draw to recreational marijuana use is that it has shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression in the short-term. However, when considering the long-term effects on our health, you may find that the negatives outweigh the positives of recreational marijuana use.

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to increased rates of depression and other psychiatric disorders

THC is the chemical that produces the psychoactive effects of marijuana (via LiveScience). A study conducted by the University of Washington found that while THC can lower anxiety levels when taken in small doses, the use of higher amounts can result in increased anxiety. The Center for Anxiety Disorders further backs up this claim stating that THC has the ability to prompt the fear response in the brain, which is why some people report feelings of paranoia after usage. Though further research is still needed on the subject, some studies indicate a link between marijuana use and increased rates of suicide (via Those that use marijuana over extended periods of time have also been found to be particularly susceptible to other psychiatric disorders such as depression, psychosis, or schizophrenia.

The side effects of marijuana usage are not universal. Whether individuals feel it increases or decreases anxiety will vary greatly. Dr. Joel Minden, a blogger for Psychology Today, has some suggestions for those who may be looking to cope with anxiety in alternate ways — such as meditation, healthy diet, exercise, and seeking out meaning and purpose in our personal lives.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).