A long-term use of illegal drugs such as marijuana has long been associated with a negative impact on the mental health of an individual. In fact, a number of studies have correlated marijuana use with an increased risk for various psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
However, with more than half of the United States supporting the legalization of marijuana, the day is not far when the use of marijuana will be at par with alcohol and tobacco. As per the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana is the most commonly abused drug across the country, with almost 22.2 million users. However, the recent legalization of marijuana in several American states has prompted many researchers in the country to explore the effects of the drug on brain mechanisms.
Prolonged use of cannabis associated with depression and anxiety
A Nov. 2016 study published in the journal Nature established an inverse relationship between the brain’s neurotransmitter dopamine levels and the use of marijuana. Led by Professor Oliver Howes, of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Center at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, the study suggested that dopamine plays a significant role in learning, motivation, reward system, emotion, as well as movement.
A prolonged use of cannabis or marijuana is associated with exhaustion, mood swings, depression and lack of enthusiasm. Moreover, neurological disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are marked by an excessive drop in the dopamine level, however, the exact physiological mechanisms are still unexplored.
As part of the study, the researchers reviewed a range of animal and human studies to assess the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-a psychoactive molecule found in marijuana, on the human brain. It was reported that THC induces complex, potentially long-term and diverse effects on the brain, such as nerve firing, a decrease in dopamine levels and dopaminergic blunting. The release of THC, followed by the drastic physiological disturbances in the brain, might be the reason why people addicted to cannabis are prone to develop mental disorders. A review of various animal studies revealed that initially, marijuana causes an increase in the dopamine level, prompting the user to abuse the drug for a prolonged period of time.
However, the researchers believed that to have an extensive and clear understanding of the impact of THC on the dopaminergic system, a review of multiple animal studies is required, in a controlled way. The results, however, need to be translated into relevant human studies, so that patterns of drug use in humans can be understood clearly.
Recovery and rehabilitation
Marijuana is an addiction forming substance. Its psychoactive constituent THC is reported to produce feelings of happiness, euphoria, sleepiness and relaxation. However, greater quantity can lead to the development of anxiety, paranoia, and finally, tolerance, paving the way for abuse. Studies have shown that marijuana users with a family history of mental health disorders are highly susceptible to developing co-occurring disorders.
An addiction to marijuana can predispose an individual to various neurological and psychological disorders, which can become very complicated, if not treated. The treatment plan for addiction and mental health disorder should be such that both the problems are addressed simultaneously.
A comprehensive assessment and a focused treatment plan are imperative to prevent relapse in co-occurring disorders. If you or your loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. If you would like to know more about dual diagnosis drug treatment in California, you may connect with the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 or chat online to get in touch with the best dual diagnosis rehab in California.