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Is It a Bad Idea to Use Marijuana to Relieve Depression?

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Updated May 09, 2013

Question: Is It a Bad Idea to Use Marijuana to Relieve Depression?
Answer: There is much debate as to whether marijuana might actually help depression. Participants in a 1997 pilot study1 reported that one of the reasons they continued to smoke marijuana was that they felt it relieved their symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study2 found that marijuana did not seem to exacerbate depression, but rather was another symptom of the condition. Although there is preliminary evidence that marijuana may have antidepressant properties, many argue there are also some important drawbacks to it's usage. There is a well-known phenomenon called "amotivational syndrome" in which chronic cannabis users become apathetic, socially withdrawn, and perform at a level of everyday functioning well below their capacity prior to their marijuana use. Although the depressed person may feel relief from their symptoms, this may be an illusion of well-being if the person loses motivation and productivity. Furthermore, if the drug is smoked, it can be far more harmful to the respiratory system that tobacco use because of the fact that it is not filtered.

References:

  1. Subst Use Misuse 1997 Feb;32(3):249-64
    Very long-term users of marijuana in the United States: a pilot study.
    Gruber AJ, Pope HG Jr, Oliva P.
  2. Addict Behav. 1996 Mar-Apr;21(2):211-6
    Relationship of depression with measures of social functioning in adult drug abusers.
    Donohue B, Acierno R, Kogan E.
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