Marijuana is one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances, and research indicates that people with SMIs (serious mental illnesses) use marijuana at rates far greater than the general population.
While there are marijuana rehab options available to help people who may have been affected by marijauan abuse or even addiction, let’s first get a better understanding of the problem.
Several studies have illustrated a link between marijuana use and the increased risk of certain psychiatric disorders, including psychosis, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. Research is ongoing to establish the role of marijuana, as well as to what extent the drug causes these conditions.
Marijuana and Psychosis
Psychotic disorders are among the most serious and debilitating of mental illnesses. Among these disorders, schizophrenia is perhaps the best known. While there is some emerging evidence to support associations between marijuana and psychosis, researchers do not yet fully understand the nature of those associations.
According to this research published in The Lancet, smoking potent forms of marijuana daily might increase the risk of developing psychosis by almost five times compared to those who have never used the drug at all.
Studies show that people who use marijuana and also carry a variant of the AKT1 gene are at heightened risk of developing psychosis. The AKT1 gene plays a role in dopamine signaling. This study shows that the risk of developing psychosis was seven times higher among those who used marijuana every day compared to those who rarely or never used marijuana.
Researchers also know that using marijuana can worsen symptoms in those who are already diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although using marijuana at high doses can trigger acute psychotic reactions in those without a diagnosis of schizophrenia, these reactions fade as the effects of marijuana wear off.
Research suggests that the following variables impact the relationship between marijuana use and psychosis:
● Amount of marijuana used
● Age of first marijuana use
● Genetic susceptibility
The most robust evidence concerns the association between marijuana use and the development of psychiatric disorders in those who have genetic or other pre-existing vulnerabilities.
Marijuana and Psychiatric Disorders
There has been some research into the association between marijuana use and the following:
● Mood disorders
● Anxiety disorders
● Substance use disorders
● Alcohol use disorders
The only meaningful associations researchers have discovered to date include an increased risk of nicotine dependence, marijuana use disorder – more on this below – as well as alcohol use disorders and other substance use disorders.
This meta-analysis of studies shows the following rates of lifetime marijuana use for patients with:
● Major depressive disorder: 17%
● Bipolar disorder: 24%
● Schizophrenia: 80%
Beyond this, around 40% of those with schizophrenia are also diagnosed with marijuana use disorder. 20% of those with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder also have co-occurring marijuana use disorder, according to the same data.
Researchers understand that someone diagnosed with a mental illness is at increased risk of lifetime marijuana use, and also that using potent marijuana at a young age also increases the risk of diagnosis with a mental illness in later life.
Does Smoking Weed Impact Motivation?
Marijuana has long been anecdotally associated with a lack of motivation sometimes referred to as amotivational syndrome – a diminished enjoyment in typically rewarding activities.
Researchers hypothesize that brain changes triggered by marijuana use at an early age could underpin these associations. More research is needed in this area.
Marijuana Use Disorder
Just as laws regarding marijuana have shifted, so has scientific opinion concerning the addictive nature of marijuana.
A NIAAA study found that almost 6 million adults in the United States experienced marijuana use disorder during the previous year, with more than double that number meeting the diagnostic criteria for marijuana use disorder at some stage in life.
While more and more people are finding that outpatient marijuana rehab helps them get back on track, there is still a huge treatment gap, with most estimates suggesting less than 10% of those requiring addiction treatment engage with any form of therapy.