Is Marijuana a Treatment for Depression?
Marijuana’s popularity may be based on the perception that it is safer than cigarettes and alcohol as a treatment for depression, but multiple studies show that marijuana is not the harmless drug many believe it is. It can have a negative impact on your mental health.
As is usual in a business involving large sums of money, controversy and misinformation are rampant. There are, however, enough facts to allow an unaddled brain to work out the connections and reach unbiased conclusions.
Myth: marijuana causes depression; or alternatively marijuana is a treatment for depression. There are as many studies, articles and arguments about one as about the other.
Fact: Neither view is totally accurate.
Marijuana is the word (thought to be Mexican-Spanish in origin) used to describe the dried flowers, seeds and leaves of the Indian hemp plant (genus Cannabis.) Etymologists think the name cannabis is from an ancient word for hemp (the name of the fiber made from the plant.)
Regardless of the name, this drug is a hallucinogen — a substance which distorts how the mind perceives the world. The chemical in cannabis that creates this distortion is tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC. The amount of THC found in any given batch of marijuana may vary substantially, but overall the percentage of THC has increased in recent years due to selective breeding. Average THC levels in cannabis have grown from 1% in 1974 to up to 24% presently.
It has been found that consuming one joint gives as much exposure to cancer-producing chemicals as smoking five cigarettes. The mental consequences are equally severe; marijuana smokers have poorer memories and mental aptitude than do non-users. THC disrupts nerve cells in the brain affecting memory.
While alcohol consists of one active substance, ethanol, marijuana contains more than 400 known chemicals, including the same cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke. THC damages the immune system; alcohol does not. Nationwide, 40% of adult males test positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest for criminal conduct. Next to alcohol, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in the bodies of drivers involved in fatal automobile accidents.
Short term effects can include panic and anxiety. Long term effects can include personality and mood changes. People take such drugs to get rid of unwanted situations or feelings. Marijuana masks the problem for a time; but when the high fades, the problem, unwanted condition or situation returns more intensely than before. One study found that marijuana users had 55% more accidents, 85% more injuries, and a 75% increase in being absent from work.
Drugs are essentially poisons. The amount taken determines the effect. A small amount acts as a stimulant; a greater amount acts as a sedative; an even larger amount can be fatal. This is true of any drug. But many drugs, like THC, can directly affect the mind by distorting the user’s perception, so that a person’s actions may be odd, irrational, inappropriate, and even destructive. Drugs block off all sensations, the desirable ones with the unwanted. So, while providing short-term help in the relief of pain, they also wipe out ability and alertness and muddy one’s thinking. Users think drugs are a solution; but eventually the drugs become the problem.
There are so many non-drug alternatives to mental issues that it makes one wonder why the drugs are so popular. Actually, we said it earlier — it is a business involving large sums of money. And if a person is depressed, whether a result of the joint or a precursor to the joint — there is your neighborhood doctor or psychiatrist ready to prescribe an anti-depressant.