Data doesn’t rule out effects of pot on mental illness

February 7, 2012 No Comments »
Data doesn’t rule out effects of pot on mental illness

Students wondering how their pot smoking is affecting their mental health will have some conflicting information to sift through before they can truly claim to be well informed on the subject. It appears inquirers will be presented with very different information based on their manner of approach to the matter.

Interested sociology students, for example, would likely seek out Andy Hathaway, a sociologist and drug-policy expert from the University of Guelph. From him they would hear about the many positive effects marijuana can have on a stressed student’s mental health.

“People use cannabis for all kinds of reasons in a functional way,” he said.

“I’ve spent time talking to people about the use of marijuana in a medicinal way and they’ve found it helpful in many ways for things like alleviating depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, psychosis—very controversial of course and not necessarily with a doctors prescription.”

Hathaway also argued the line between recreational and medicinal marijuana use has become blurred as cannabis becomes more acceptable among mainstream society.

“The distinction between medicinal and recreational [use] gets a bit fuzzy because some people could be claiming to use it recreationally, but also benefit unknowingly from its use in the sense of relaxation, alleviating depression, helping them sleep and improving their sociability in social interactions and those kinds of things,” he argued.

Some scientific data, however, show a correlation between cannabis use and mental illness that can be hard to ignore. A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence tracked the mental health and drug use of a group of 14to 17 year-olds for over a decade, and found that depression, bipolar disorder and, to a lesser extent, anxiety disorders, all overlapped with previous marijuana use. Even more alarmingly, higher usage rates were reliable predictors of more severe mental health problems.

Hathaway, however, maintained scientific data does not exclusively report negative effects of marijuana.

“I think it’s fair to say that people report positives as well as negatives in the research that we’re hearing.”

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