A Therapist Busts 3 Myths About Recreational Marijuana
Using marijuana recreationally can be fun. It can also be therapeutic. But only if you use it responsibly.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | November 13, 2022
Many people come to therapy wondering if they have an unhealthy relationship with marijuana. They ask questions like:
- "On the days I don't smoke, I feel very anxious and disconnected from my friends and family. Does marijuana have something to do with this?"
- "I no longer enjoy the taste of food unless I am high. Why is this happening to me?"
- "I'm starting to spend more time and money on marijuana than I am comfortable with. How can I dial it down?"
- "I used to get high because it made me more creative. Lately, every time I get high, I just feel lethargic and unmotivated to create anything. How do I get my drive back?"
- "I can't seem to fall asleep unless I'm high. Is there anything wrong with smoking before I go to sleep?"
As of today, 19 states in the U.S. have legalized recreational marijuana and around half of all young adults in the country are users of cannabis. With the stigma around recreational use beginning to crumble, it's important to talk about the mental health consequences of using marijuana.
The main psychoactive cannabinoids found in marijuana (THC and CBD) are intoxicants. These compounds interact with your brain and body chemistry in complex ways to induce feelings of pleasure, relief, and well-being. Along with the positive effects, marijuana can also stir up negative feelings like anxiety and paranoia.
As with anything, moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship with marijuana. Here are three widely held myths that you need to stop believing to have a healthy relationship with marijuana.
Myth #1. Marijuana is not harmful to your mental health
The science is conclusive: the THC concentration in marijuana is on the rise. A recent study published in The Lancet found that this increase in potency brings with it a slew of serious mental health risks for marijuana users.
The study revealed that high-potency cannabis use was associated with a fourfold increase in the chance of addiction when compared to low-potency cannabis use. The research is in line with the real-world trend in cannabis addiction treatment, which, in the past decade, has seen a 76% increase. According to CDC estimates, around 30% of all marijuana users in the U.S. meet the criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder.
In addition, those who use high-potency cannabis were found to be at a higher risk for developing cannabis-induced psychosis, a serious mental health condition characterized by hallucinations and delusions.
This study also found evidence that chronic use of potent marijuana could lead to an increase in depressive symptoms and worsen anxiety.
Myth #2. Marijuana cures anxiety
Marijuana is touted by some as a magical herb that relieves you of your anxiety and improves your quality of life. Science, however, says that reality is more nuanced.
A study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that while CBD may be helpful in managing symptoms of anxiety, THC is not. In fact, THC has anxiety-inducing properties.
If you are a recreational user, chances are that your strain of marijuana has a high THC-to-CBD ratio. Of the two cannabinoids, THC is what produces the 'high' that people enjoy.
Be a discerning consumer of cannabis: understand the difference between THC-dominant and CBD-dominant strains. Speak to a mental health practitioner if you feel your marijuana use is spiking your anxiety in your day-to-day life.
Myth #3. Marijuana makes you creative
Pop culture is full of anecdotal evidence that marijuana makes you a better writer, musician, or artist. Let's explore this claim through a scientific lens.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology discovered that while users may think they are more creative while under the influence, the drug had no bearing on the actual creativity displayed.
This is explained by the finding that those under the influence reported feeling more jovial and, consequently, had a lower bar for what they believed was a creative idea. Although the researchers predicted that the joviality would bring about higher levels of creativity in those under the influence, they were unable to find any objective evidence to support this.
The cannabis industry is young. As a consequence of this, people (and the media) often take extreme positions on the pros and cons of marijuana use. What you need to realize is that marijuana, like alcohol, is just another recreational drug. In low doses, it can be viewed as a medicine or pain reliever. Its legality is not a guarantee for its safety. While it certainly has its place in society and medicine, marijuana is not a cure for all your problems. It is imperative that you think for yourself and be responsible with your indulgence.