Marijuana Abuse May Increase Depression and Anxiety Says Study

Marijuana Use May Increase Depression and Anxiety Says Study

A new study reveals that marijuana abuse has a similar effect on dopamine response as other drugs and may increase depression and anxiety as a result. With the legalizing of recreational marijuana in some states and the medical use in many more, scientists are rushing to discover the long term effects of marijuana use. The results of this study show that prolonged practice may have a negative effect on mood and personality.

Researchers at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York University Langone Medical Center and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism completed a small study of the brain’s response to dopamine after prolonged marijuana exposure. It is well known that other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, nicotine, alcohol and methamphetamine mimic the release of dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and happiness. It is easy to see why people get addicted to drugs that can flood the brain with dopamine. Unfortunately, the body’s natural feedback mechanisms register the extra dopamine and the brain stops producing its own. In order to raise dopamine levels, more of the drug is necessary.

Previous studies, as a whole, have been inconclusive about marijuana’s effect on dopamine levels. Some early research determined that marijuana functions the same way as the other drugs but other research found that it did not. Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, seems to work more as an analgesic, reducing pain by altering neurotransmitters near the spinal cord.  A user’s main response to the drug is relaxation and a decrease in aggression. It is also known to increase taste and appetite and has an effect on the visual, auditory and olfactory senses. Due to the way it operates in the body, cannabis has many medical applications. It can reduce pain and nausea for chemotherapy patients. It relieves pressure in the eyes of glaucoma patients, and it can alleviate pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. Now, a new study has shown that marijuana abuse may increase anxiety and depression via the decrease in dopamine experienced by the user.

Over the past few years moves have been made to decriminalize marijuana. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 with Alaska, Washington and Oregon following two years later. Last week New York became the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Colorado and Washington are the only two states to fully legalize marijuana, but other states are expected to follow. Many states have minimized the criminal charges for possession of marijuana. Will the trend continue as the new study reveals that marijuana abuse has a similar effect on dopamine response as other drugs?

A key word in the study is abuse. Joanne Fowler of the Brookhaven Institute and her colleagues examined the effects of steady, prolonged use of the drug. The experimental group consisted of 24 people who “had been smoking a median of about five joints a day, five days a week for 10 years.” When the drug methylphenidate was administered, the experimental group experienced a blunted dopamine response in comparison to the control group, 24 non-users. Methylphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin, stimulates the production of dopamine in the brain. The experimental group did not feel “the cardiovascular, behavioral [or] brain changes usually associated with an increase in dopamine levels.” On the other hand, the control group had elevated blood pressures and altered moods. “Members of the control group reported feeling more high, restless, anxious and affected by the drug than the marijuana abusers did,” said researchers. PET scans confirmed greater physical changes in the brains of the control group.

Prolonged marijuana use blunted the response to dopamine in regular smokers. They did not feel the effects of the drug as strongly, nor did they derive as much pleasure from their other senses. The reward circuitry of their brains may have been disrupted by excessive use. Another sign that those who abuse marijuana have trouble experiencing pleasure, is a survey of their personalities. Marijuana abusers were more likely to have depression, anxiety, irritability and other negative emotions. It is not clear if this is due to marijuana’s effect on the user, or if negative moods were a pre-existing condition. Perhaps marijuana users are more prone to negative emotions and they self-medicate with THC, say experts.

On July 10, Arizona became the eighth state to authorize medical marijuana use for treatment of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although studies have supported THC’s relief of symptoms because of its tendency to relax patients, researchers want to know if prolonged use of the drug may have the opposite effect. At first, marijuana enhances the senses to provide more pleasure; but long-term use may actually make it harder for people to feel happy and content.

Studies of marijuana use have been difficult due to its status as an illegal drug. Now a new study reveals that marijuana has a similar effect on dopamine response as other drugs and as a result of this action, abusers may experience an increase in depression and anxiety. This could be cause to look more carefully at a mood-altering substance that soon could be widely available for recreational use.

By: Rebecca Savastio





AZ Central


8 Responses to "Marijuana Abuse May Increase Depression and Anxiety Says Study"

  1. Murky Murican   March 6, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    How will we ever keep our corporate state for profit prisons with stocks traded on Wall Street and convict labor leasing full, growing and maximally profitable if we don’t lock people up for using what has been considered medicinal in human societies for thousands of years?

  2. Kirstof Roth   July 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I took two tokes of marijuana after some 15 years of not using and felt drained and somehow grim the next day, laying down several times out of sheer exhaustion. I also felt dirty and old on the inside. So much as I enjoyed the anxiety-free high, I’m not convinced it’s worth the dopamine depletion that follows to resume usage. Regular consumption becomes a vicious circle of seeking an exaggerated sense of euphoria at the expense of one’s natural contentment and pleasure in life.

    In the ayurvedic context the effect is ‘tamasic’ rather than ‘satvic’–increasing inertia at the expense of natural buoyancy; the opposite of the physiological-spiritual state yogins cultivate through their unification practices.

  3. Ricard   July 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    I’m laughing at these comments, as if you guys have anxiety issues over a single study lol. it just says abuse of THC. Just like alcohol, drug abuse etc. there are ramifications to overusing substances, especially if people are using them to cope.

    Most people who drink don’t have a drinking problem. And most people who smoke pot don’t have a problem either. All this study says is that it is possible that people who abuse it could have issues of depression and anxiety. And if it makes you hissy about how it’s all bogus, go have a blunt and calm down!

  4. Hugh Stoner   July 17, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Marijuana increases anxiety and depression? What” Really? Really. Every single person I know gets high because marijuana is a mild euphoric. Never ever in 45 years of using cannabis with other people did I ever observe people that were anxious and depressed.
    Case in point if marijuana made you anxious and depressed wouldn’t people at hempfests or reggae concerts be sad or scared? No they are big hug fests with extremely elated people. I mean this has to be the most ridiculous study yet. As legalization comes to America it is to be expected.
    You want to bet that if I had a tiny, 24 test subjects self-reporting their feelings with no replication, I would be laughed at. This is worse than junk science, it’s practically criminal.
    I know why they are doing it. Google Run from the cure watch the spellbinding story of how Rick Simpson is curing cancer. They are running from the cure because they cannot monetize it They are afraid.

  5. Elroy Jetson   July 16, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Did anyone see the key word to this article? ‘MAY’ When the story starts with the words ‘may, could, might’ it just another BS story. Now move along people, move along.

  6. Dave K, Phoenix, AZ   July 16, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    It looks to me like Colorado’s decision was well thought out and they are doing an excellent job of undercutting the drug cartels. Every dollar spent in a marijuana retail establishment is a dollar that does not go to the gangs and cartels! The prohibitionists were not involved in the drafting of Colorado’s law nor should they expect to run things at the end of prohibition.

  7. Brian Kelly   July 16, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please all you prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all you prohibitionists get when you look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of yours, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest you return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money you shelled out for it, since it is obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

  8. Tabitha Farrar   July 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Well, on the whole, people in Colorado seem pretty happy

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