Marijuana is helping my depression. Is it safe Aidan?

I have recently announced through Social Media that I am writing a book and invited questions on Mental Health related matters.

Here’s our first

Dear Aidan,

I really want to ask you about Marijuana. I do not care what people say about Marijuana not being an anti-depressant. I am never happy period. However when I smoke I am truly happy for 5/6 hours The only time I smile is when I am high. There is increasing evidence on the benefits of Marijuana. It genuinely is the only time I smile. Why is it so wrong when I have tried many anti-depressants that the one substance that works is illegal and I wake up with anxiety over whether I will be able to connect with my source? I know Marijuana will be legalized in Ireland, but that will take some time yet and that it will be more a medical marijuana, i.e. missing the good stuff. Am I safe to smoke on ?

J, Ireland

Dear J,

Thanks for your query and you are the first to ask me a question in my new web-space!

Marijuana and Medical Marijuana (not yet legalized in Ireland) are not to be considered lightly. Firstly, the high you get from marijuana comes from a chemical called Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, which is found in varying potency. Most of THC’s effects happen in the brain, where the chemical interacts with receptors on brain cells called cannabinoid receptors

You talk about your mood lifting when you take Marijuana, but there are studies from the Netherlands, which found that smoking cannabis increases the risk of depression for young people who have a genetic vulnerability to the mental illness. You do not mention what age you are and we do not know your genetic vulnerability. Marijuana users who have taken large doses of the drug may experience acute psychosis also, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity. These episodes may be related to the link between marijuana use and psychosis and again if you are young, there is a risk of developing schizophrenia, so if you are a teenager, my advice is stop immediately.

Side by side with Depression is anxiety and somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of recreational marijuana users react with intense anxiety after taking the drug, making it one of the most commonly reported side effects. You mention waking up with anxiety, you don’t want to fall into the habit of smoking cannabis day after day, week after week, especially as its illegal and especially as you have one source, as what would you do if your source was cut off or if you were arrested, anxiety levels would be unbearable. I have a fear if you are still feeling high after 5/6 hours, that you may be taking a substantial amount also.

I will give a few thoughts to wrap up.

There is the question over whether Marijuana is a gateway drug and again it is a question I cannot definitively answer, some will proceed to harder drugs, some will not. Just be cautious – THC messes with brain areas called the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. When these brain areas are disturbed, the user has a harder time walking and talking correctly, becoming quite clumsy.

Psychiatric nurses I have spoken to tell me that they see a lot of regular cannabis users and differing ages, so it is chicken or egg time – which comes first – Cannabis or Mental Health difficulties. It is too complex, in my opinion to answer, Cannabis is unsafe and you mention depression, so I would advocate medical intervention, possible psychiatrist referral and you will see many options for meds, combinations, CBT, DBT that will lift your mood, and address the underlying cause to your problems. If this is now an addiction issue and I do not know how long you have been talking the marijuana; there are Addiction specialists in Ireland,

The medical Cannabis you refer to wont be available to you! It may become available to those with chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, MS, under a doctor’s strict recommendation, to help to alleviate symptoms of illness. The high is caused by a single chemical in marijuana known as tetrahydrocannabinol. Medical Marijuana is for kids with large numbers of seizures daily and those in chronic pain in my opinion. It will be not be prescribed lightly

Please consider the medial route and ending your cannabis use I do not know your age or socio-economic circumstances, but you sound possibly reliant and continued use will take motivation away from you and it certainly is not a long-term solution for depression or anxiety. There are many psychiatric options and these can be looked at and do not need to be feared. I would like to see you get over the depression, become free of anxiety and get off cannabis leading a more fulfilling life .Let me know how you fare.

There are a lot of questions that I couldn’t answer definitively, but I will say that while I support medical marijuana in time, I do not endorse, Marijuana usage and it can and will lead to depression and anxiety or worsen preexisting anxiety or depression in the long run. There’s no end the stigma on marijuana, J