The interplay between marijuana use and depression is complicated and full of unanswered questions. How marijuana affects the risk of developing depression, and conversely, how depression influences marijuana use, is actively being investigated in scientific studies.
As new knowledge emerges, it is essential to stay up to date on how marijuana use interacts with mental health. The bottom line, though, is that struggling with depression is tough, as is struggling to cut back on marijuana use—let alone having to face both at once!
Living with depression can make even the smallest of tasks seem insurmountable. Many marijuana users are no strangers to the daily challenges of living with a mood disorder. As it turns out, there is also a strong link between use of marijuana and depression.
It is estimated that individuals with a lifetime history of mood disorder—like depression or bipolar disorder—are two to three times more likely to have used marijuana and to develop cannabis use disorder compared to individuals without a mood disorder (Martins, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2011).
Multiple studies have demonstrated that adults with a current mood disorder, such as depression, were at increased risk for more severe mood symptoms if they had used marijuana in the past six months compared to those who had not used marijuana at all (Mammen, J Clin Psychiatry, 2018).
When it comes to deciphering how marijuana and depression are related, similar thinking applies to marijuana’s relationship with anxiety. Once again, the variables that may increase your risk of using marijuana are often in common with those that predispose you to depression. Even so, there’s reason to believe that it’s not just shared risk factors that are driving this association. Only time will tell.
To date, there have been no reported randomized controlled trials to show sustained benefits of marijuana in the treatment of depression. In other words, self-medicating with marijuana may not be the best medicine for you. It’s best to talk to your doctor about treatment options that have demonstrated durable benefits, including counseling, antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression in addition to cannabis use disorder, your healthcare provider can help you navigate a path to treatment. Sustainable, long-lasting options for help are out there!
Brian Canfield, Ed.D.
Professor, Counselor Education at Florida Atlantic University. Founder of the International Association of Psychology and Counseling.
Weedless.org is a free, web-based resource and community created by a team of healthcare professionals and researchers. We distill the facts about marijuana use and its effects into practical guidance for interested persons or for those who are thinking about or struggling to quit weed. Finding reliable, easy to understand information about marijuana should never be a struggle—that is why our core mission is to provide the most up to date information about marijuana use, abuse, addiction, and withdrawal. While we seek to empower individuals to have control over their use, we are not “anti-weed” and we support efforts to legalize adult marijuana use and study.