Risks of Using Marijuana to Reduce Anxiety

Substance use is typical in American culture across the board. From recreational drug use to social drinking, addictive substances are a big part of many lives. Additionally, using marijuana has been customary in our culture for decades. However, the reasons for using marijuana have shifted slightly. We sometimes think of the hippy-dippy attitudes and marijuana use of the 60s and 70s. However, nowadays, more and more people use the drug to cope with anxiety. Unfortunately, many are not fully aware of the consequences of marijuana use, especially long-term.

The effects of anxiety can be crippling, making it difficult for people to function day-to-day. Many individuals avoid using prescription medications to manage their anxiety symptoms, leading them to consider marijuana. If you are one of those people, continue reading to learn about the potential consequences of long-term marijuana use as a cure for anxiety. Additionally, consult a doctor or mental health professional today. 

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana, sometimes referred to as cannabis, weed, pot, Mary Jane, or dope, is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as the “dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.” The cannabis plant contains a ”mind-altering chemical" called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the psychoactive ingredient that causes a high in those who use marijuana. 

According to NIDA, people typically smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints or blunts or in pipes or water pipes called bongs. For years these were the most common ways to use marijuana. In recent years, individuals have begun vaping marijuana. Vaping extracts the active ingredients of weed into the vapor. People then inhale that vapor instead of inhaling smoke, which many people believe to be safer. However, we now know the risks associated with vaping

It is also typical for marijuana to be ingested through food. It may be baked into brownies, cookies, candies, and even brewed into teas. However, this method of use sometimes makes it easier to take too much marijuana. 

Many use marijuana recreationally. The number of young people using it is a concern. Any substance use at a young age is dangerous. The brain has yet to fully develop, and substance use can hinder that development. According to NIDA, 11.8 million young adults used marijuana in 2018.

Understanding Anxiety Disorder

An anxiety disorder is when a person experiences intense feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety without a clear cause or justification, and these feelings get worse over time. Symptoms can become so severe that a person struggles to function, impacting daily activities like work, school, and relationships. 

There is no one specific cause of anxiety. Traumas or troubling situations throughout childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood can trigger the development of an anxiety disorder. It can also come as a result of another mental health condition, substance use, or excessive and chronic stress. 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

The signs and symptoms of anxiety depend on the type of anxiety disorder a person has. Some potential disorders and symptoms include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) consists of consistent feelings of anxiety or dread. Symptoms include: 
  • Feeling restless or on-edge 
  • Easily fatigued 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Irritability 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Panic disorder is characterized by unexpected panic attacks where a person suddenly experiences intense fear and discomfort. Symptoms include: 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Chest pain 
  • Feeling out of control 
  • Trembling or body shakes 
  • Sweating 
  • Social anxiety disorder is an extreme fear of being watched or judged by people and causes individuals to avoid social situations. Symptoms include: 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Stomachaches 
  • Trouble making eye contact or talking around strangers 
  • Feeling self-consciousness 
  • Blushing, sweating, and trembling 

Individuals may also experience any number of phobia-related disorders, separation anxiety, and many others; at times, people have a combination of conditions. Psychotherapies and medications can effectively help people manage their symptoms. However, many try to refrain from prescription drugs. As mentioned, this may lead them to consider using marijuana to cope with their anxiety. 

Using Marijuana to Cope With Anxiety

Many people with anxiety disorders begin marijuana use to cope with their condition. While more research is required, people claim that marijuana temporarily relieves them of their symptoms. This may make it easier for them to engage in social situations, relax at home, or stop dwelling on things that induce anxiety. 

THC appears to decrease anxiety in some individuals. However, some people react badly to marijuana use. THC may cause paranoia, hallucinations, and increased anxiety symptoms. That is one of the dangers of self-medicating with marijuana, especially for the first time — individuals may not know how they will react. There are several other potential consequences of long-term marijuana use. 

The Potential Consequences of Using Marijuana

Short-term effects of using marijuana vary from causing altered mood and sense to causing delusions or even psychosis. Potential long-term consequences also vary depending on age and level of use. For example, in teenagers, marijuana can cause impaired thinking, cognitive dysfunction, and memory loss. 

Other health effects of marijuana use include: 

  • A dangerously increased heart rate, which can cause a heart attack
  • Respiratory issues like chronic cough, lung cancer, and increased risk of other lung infections
  • Mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and the potential for severe paranoia 
  • The development of substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Risk of using other drugs, intentionally or unintentionally

Understanding these consequences and educating oneself are invaluable to learning about the pros and cons of using marijuana to cope with anxiety. There are ways to manage anxiety without medications. Before doing anything or using marijuana, consult a doctor or mental health professional today. 

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