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How Cannabis Affects Your Mental Health

A close-up of a human brain illustrating mental health.
A close-up of a human brain illustrating mental health._SCALED
CREDIT: Creative Commons (BiologyCorner)

Over the years, the understanding of how cannabis affects mental health has shifted.  When the prohibition of marijuana first came on the stage, marijuana was considered very dangerous to the mind, potentially causing long term brain damage.  However, as the attitude towards marijuana changes and as new studies emerge, our understanding of cannabis and the brain is changing.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a review in early 2017 of the studies that have been conducted on the consumption of cannabis.  Their report addressed many aspects of cannabis consumption, but let’s take a look at what they found on cannabis and mental health.

Many cannabis users say marijuana helps them deal with depression, stress, anxiety and other mental issues.  However, the report suggests that there is a “substantial association” between cannabis and risk for psychotic disorders.  It’s important to note that this is only a correlation, and there is no indication that cannabis causes psychosis – but there is some kind of association that we haven’t quite pinned down yet.  Think of it this way: we don’t really know if people dealing with psychosis use cannabis to ease their symptoms, or if the cannabis worsens symptoms.

The study also indicated something anyone who has taken a puff should already know: cannabis consumption causes a brief period of memory loss, short-term attention and haziness.  However, the report also indicates that cannabis-users perform better on learning/memory tasks than non-consumers.  Then again, a few studies cited by the report indicate that there is some risk of longterm cognitive decline in regular cannabis users.

Essentially, the research up to this point is ambiguous and sometimes contradictory.  We don’t have a good grasp on the long term effects of cannabis on mental health, and in order to reach any sure conclusions, we’re going to need a much longer period of study.

In the meantime, there’s nothing conclusive out there yet that should give cannabis-consumers a huge amount of concern.  So if the green works for you (and you can obtain it legally), keep enjoying!”

Mac Jackman