Marijuana is the most popular among illicit drugs in the world. Part of the reason that it is extremely popular has to do with the fact that people like what the drug does for them. In my opinion, it is among the safest and least addicting of illicit substances. I have never used it, but have done some fairly extensive research surrounding the drug. I am neither an advocate for or against its legalization – what’s meant to happen will happen.
I have already written about the long term psychological effects of marijuana use in a different article. Based on what I know, this substance can caused increased risk of developing schizophrenia, and chronic use is associated with an overall lower quality of life compared to non-users. Anyways, below I’ve compiled a list of psychological benefits of marijuana use.
Psychological Benefits of Marijuana Usage
1. Neuropathic Pain Reduction
Even at low doses, vaporized marijuana has been proven to be effective at helping those who are experiencing neuropathic pain. Perhaps the most common use for marijuana these days is to help with chronic pain management. Chronic pain is a leading cause of reduced quality of life and those with it are trying to cope but sometimes can barely make it through the day.
There is only so much a person can do before they need to start looking at medicinal approaches to treat their severe lasting pain. Based on studies, marijuana seems to really help people out that have high amounts of chronic pain. Although the pros and cons need to be weighed before utilizing it as a treatment option, it does appear to get the job done for many that have tried.
It is hypothesized that pain relief from ingesting marijuana is a result of the affect it has on frontal limbic cannabinoid receptors – as well as reductions in activity in the anterior mid cingulate cortex as well as altered activity in the amygdale and primary sensorimotor regions. Researchers think that cannabis may target the “affective” qualities of the pain more than anything. In other words, individuals who use marijuana may find that it reduces the unpleasantness as a result of the pain, but not necessarily the intensity of the pain.
2. Antidepressant (Mood Boost)
The long term effects of marijuana as an antidepressant remain unknown. In many cases it is not advisable to use marijuana to help treat depression because it can increase risk of developing more severe conditions like schizophrenia. When smoked, marijuana causes the brain to release dopamine and anandamide – producing a relaxing affect. Many individuals use this substance to self treat their depression and find temporary relief.
As with any drug, using it one time is likely going to have an antidepressant affect. However, repeated use or chronic use is actually linked to having a lower quality of life and lower levels of life satisfaction than non users. There needs to be more research done in this area, but most users find that it does help improve their overall mood and depression. I tend to think of marijuana as a mood enhancer. With a relatively low side effect profile compared to other drugs – even antidepressants – further research is warranted in this area.
3. Reduced Hostility
Although there aren’t really treatments for hostility and anger, there is a market for individuals with high amounts of irritability. Typically these people are treated with antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or even certain medications used to reduce blood pressure. In certain studies, marijuana was found to reduce hostility in people exposed to a “frustration stimulus.”
It is known that cannabis improves one’s mood as a result of its affect on the brain. It is also able to reduce verbal and internal hostility towards others. This is likely a result of the fact that it makes people relax. If you are relaxed and in a good mood as a result of marijuana, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be angry or irritable.
4. Insomnia Reduction
Marijuana can promote drowsiness and help individuals that are struggling with chronic insomnia. Insomnia is closely related to stress, anger, tension, and not being able to relax. Usually individuals with insomnias brains are stuck in overdrive – rapid thinking and they think so much and have so much tension in their bodies that they cannot sleep.
Fortunately marijuana helps promote physical and mental relaxation – which can lead to drowsiness near bed time and helps people sleep. A couple of people I know on a first hand basis need to smoke marijuana or they cannot sleep. I promote exercise and hard work and relaxation techniques as opposed to drug use, but if you really don’t want to push yourself or have an excuse to not exercise or learn to relax on your own, marijuana can help with insomnia.
5. Reduced Anxiety
In states where marijuana is legalized, some people claim that it works wonders for their anxiety issues. Although I have never used it for my generalized anxiety, some people claim it’s the best. There are many arguments that cannabis is safer than many common anti anxiety and anti depressant drugs. Take a drug like Xanax for example to treat anxiety. Long term use of Xanax has been linked to developments of dementia; this is a significant finding.
Some individuals have anxiety so limiting that they cannot socialize, form friendships, and engage in society. If nothing seems to help, why not at least consider marijuana in states that it is legalized. Think of all the medications out there to treat anxiety – not all of them work the same way and everyone experiences something different. One medication may help someone, while increase anxiety in another person. Marijuana on the other hand is pretty much universal in the fact that it does decrease anxiety and promote relaxation.
Some people don’t know how to cope with stress as a result of PTSD, anxiety, death of a loved one, and they turn to substances like marijuana. Some studies demonstrate that marijuana does in fact help people cope with stressors. Due to the risks, it may not be the best long term strategy, but it clearly does help people relax. There are disputes as to whether people should medicate with alcohol vs. marijuana and which is better or healthier for stress.
They are both different and will result in different changes in the nervous system. Once again the dopamine and anandamide helps a person feel good and relax – both physically and mentally.