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Wellness

Is Weed Having An Effect On Your Mental Health? Here’s How To Cut The Habit

Weed is arguably one of the most socially accepted drugs on the market. Generally acknowledged as a conventional part of social and recreational settings, you can’t go too far without encountering the causal question, “So… do you smoke?”

Naturally, who doesn’t want to take the edge off every now and then? According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that produces its euphoric and mind-altering effects, embodies a chemical structure “similar to the brain chemical anandamide.” This allows our body to recognize the similarity and alter our normal brain communication, leading to the familiar hazy high feeling one gets after taking a hit.


Because of marijuana’s accessibility and social acceptance, it’s uniquely set apart from other recreational substances. Unlike the stigma attached to harder drugs or excessive alcohol consumption, waking and baking and smoking for leisure, stress reduction, or to pass the time, is often normalized. While many users report positive experiences with weed and find relief from anxiety and depression symptoms, it’s important to consider the potential effects that long-term use can have on one’s mental health and whether it’s time to quit.

In order to do so, we must address one important factor: cannabis is complex.

Black-woman-enjoying-a-smoke-in-her-bedroom

rez-art/ Getty Images

For years, researchers have been determined to settle the quandary of whether individuals develop anxiety and depression due to cannabis use or if they use cannabis products as a coping mechanism for existing mental health issues. Still, one thing that is clear is how the effects vary from person to person, and the earlier one starts smoking, the more sustainable they are to long-term drawbacks.

“We do know that when teenagers or young adults are using cannabis more frequently, they have more trouble with anxiety and depression, as compared to people who are using cannabis or marijuana products when they are older adults,” Amie Goodin, Ph.D., MPP, assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Pharmaceutical Outcomes tells xoNecole.

Dr. Goodin explains that on average, there is an observed trend indicating a higher likelihood of negative effects, such as anxiety and depression, among individuals who engage in frequent and substantial cannabis use, though defining "a lot" is challenging.

“There is good evidence to suggest that people who are using pretty regularly, meaning most days and using when they are younger, they tend to have worse anxiety and depression,” she adds. These differences in usage patterns can result in varying experiences for individuals, making it complex to establish a clear threshold for what constitutes high cannabis use.

Still, there are common signs that marijuana users can look out for when determining whether their usage should be reduced or cut out. As Dr. Goofin notes, it’s all about accessing the impact weed is having on one’s lifestyle, health, and relationships.

“If you've noticed that you're spending less time with people that you used to enjoy spending time with, having trouble at your job or school, that's a bit of a concern,” she says. “Another thing to keep in mind is what's happening with your sleep? If it's showing up in your mind, and it's taken up a lot of space in your head, maybe that's a good reason to take a step back and evaluate if you need to talk to somebody?”

Are There Long-Term Effects to Smoking Weed?

While Dr. Goodin notes that smoking weed isn’t inherently life-threatening, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no downsides. Individuals with pre-existing mental health challenges unrelated to marijuana use, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis disorders, may experience more severe episodes when using cannabis regularly. Additionally, similar to smoking tobacco, “There might be risks for your heart and cardiovascular system,” which can affect one’s breathing and lung health in the long run.

How to Quit Smoking Weed

Treatment guidelines for cannabis-related issues are currently lacking, partly because existing treatment options are designed for individuals with more severe health issues. Still, if smoking weed is a habit that you’d like to ditch, here's a guide to initiate the process:

1. Create a Sleep Hygiene Plan.

“If you’re smoking weed or vaping, and stop, getting sleep can be tough,” Dr. Goodin explains. “Coming up with a plan for your sleep in advance can be helpful. Thinking about putting in more effort to help your body be more responsive to natural sleep cues is a good place to start.”

2. Schedule Your Annual Check-Up.

Dr. Goodin says, “Scheduling the appointment that we all put off is our regular annual check-up. The kind of advice and guidance from your healthcare provider can make a difference in knowing whether or not there needs to be other discussions made about your weed usage.”

3. Talk to a Friend.

“You don’t necessarily have to do the accountability buddy thing, but it might be a good idea just to let somebody within your social circle know that you’re trying to quit,” she says. “Especially if you tend to hang out with people and smoking is the activity. It's a good idea to talk to your friends and say, ‘Hey, could we try something different?’”

Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at https://www.samhsa.gov/ for additional mental health support resources.

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Feature image by Cavan Images/ José Antonio Luque Olmedo/ Getty Images

 

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