Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a psychoactive drug that is derived from the Cannabis plant. It is commonly used for recreational and medicinal purposes, and it is known for its psychoactive effects, including altered states of consciousness, relaxation, and altered sensory experiences.
In the field of psychology, marijuana is often studied for its effects on the brain and behavior. For example, research has examined the effects of marijuana on cognitive functioning, such as memory and attention, and on mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Investigating the Psychological Effects of Marijuana
It’s been estimated that marijuana usage has increased by 245% over the last two decades. While the use of medical marijuana has seen a big increase, it’s undeniable that leisurely use of drug is has grown significantly more, especially among young adults.
As with any substance, it’s important to understand the psychological effects of marijuana use. Studies have found that heavy use of marijuana can lead to permanent changes in brain chemistry and structure, particularly among younger users, as their brains are still developing.
Today, we will look at the positives and negatives of marijuana use in further detail. We’ll discuss potential mental health risks and any potential benefits the drug might offer.
The Effects of Marijuana on Your Body
Before discussing anything, we need to establish what marijuana does in the body. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, which enter the bloodstream and bind to special receptors located throughout your brain and body. These interact with neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, altering their activity and influencing moods or behavior.
The effects of marijuana vary from person to person and depend on several reasons, including the amount used, how it is consumed, and the individual’s mental and physical health. Generally speaking, marijuana may produce short-term effects ranging from increased heart rate to feeling relaxed or even euphoric.
How Does Marijuana Affect Your Mood
In the past, campaigns against marijuana have demonized it as a dangerous drug capable of dramatically altering your mood and behavior. In reality, things aren’t that dramatic. There are no recorded deaths or overdoses due to marijuana use, and it isn’t proven to produce any long-term changes in behavior or mental health.
However, marijuana does affect your emotions. It can alter the release of hormones associated with pleasure and reward responses. This can lead to feeling relaxed or even elated for a short period before the effects of the drug wear off. It can also lead to mood swings if you are prone to them, or if you’re using higher doses.
The research we have, also highlights the potential for developing a substance use disorder. Those who become dependent may experience withdrawal symptoms upon suddenly stopping their intake. Developing a physical dependency, however, isn’t possible.
While more studies are needed to understand how these substances affect people's brains over time, early evidence suggests that frequent users may suffer from memory problems and cognitive decline.
Cognitive Effects of Marijuana Usage
Like a roller coaster, marijuana usage can have its ups and downs. To understand this ride of highs and lows, it is essential to explore the cognitive effects that accompany marijuana use. While there are many factors at play when considering the psychological impacts of cannabis consumption, an understanding of how it affects mental functions should be considered.
From memory recall to focus and creativity, marijuana usage has been shown to impact these areas differently for each individual. Some studies suggest that short-term exposure may improve cognition by stimulating neural activity within certain parts of the brain.
However, prolonged use may lead to more detrimental results, with slower reaction times and decreased motivation among long-term users. Evidence suggests that those who consume higher concentrations can also experience changes in perception as well as alterations to their emotional state.
The question remains: what do all these findings mean? Ultimately, while further research needs to take place before any conclusions can be made regarding marijuana's effect on cognitive functioning, one thing is clear - its ability to alter our thinking processes must always be kept in mind when investigating the psychological implications of using cannabis.
Rewards, Motivation, and Mental Health
Considering that we’ve been using cannabis for more than three millennia at this point, the amount of actual scientifically-backed evidence is shockingly small. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything about the effects of cannabis on our mental health.
While it's hard to define impulsivity as an abstract concept, it's generally accepted that cannabis can lead to increased impulsivity. This means that users are more likely to make decisions without considering the potential consequences of their actions, which could include taking risks or engaging in risky behaviors.
Impulsivity can also be linked with a decreased ability to pay attention and focus, as well as cognitive deficits like memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Some of these problems could potentially lead to an increased risk of accidents and other negative outcomes.
PTSD usually happens after a person goes through a traumatic event, which causes them to feel shocked, fearful, and often helpless. The disorder affects between 7% and 8% of the population and has long-term effects such as lack of sleep, anxiety, and flashbacks.
While medical professionals aren’t sure of the exact mechanism through which cannabis alleviates PTSD symptoms, there are some that believe it helps by calming the fear response and allowing a person to distance themselves from the traumatic experience.
While many people are shy, social anxiety is a disorder that affects 15 million Americans and can cause sufferers to feel very overwhelmed in social situations. It is common for those with social anxiety to avoid going out, have trouble making friends, or find themselves too anxious to participate in activities involving others.
Users of medical marijuana in states like Texas have noted that cannabis can relieve their social anxiety. That’s likely because of the neurochemical changes marijuana causes in the brain, which include an increase in dopamine levels, making users feel more relaxed and able to manage their symptoms better.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can cause periods of extreme mood swings and fluctuations in energy levels. It’s estimated that nearly 5% of adults in the US experience symptoms of bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.
While the exact cause is unknown, some studies suggest that medical marijuana could be used to lessen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Marijuana’s ability to increase the release of anandamide may help reduce symptoms of the disorder resistant to traditional treatment. Medical marijuana can also reduce paranoia - a common symptom of bipolar disorder.
The Research Continues
Marijuana has become increasingly popular in recent years, and its effects on mental health are worth exploring. Science suggests that marijuana use may lead to cognitive deficits. There is also evidence that rewards motivation and mental health could be improved through its usage.
That presents an interesting dilemma as people must weigh the risks against the benefits of using marijuana. We need to invest more time and money into academic research before we can definitively judge the subject.
In any case, it is important to remember that marijuana has been used for millennia, and its effects are still being studied today. There is much potential in understanding how cannabis can be used responsibly and safely, but this will only come if we invest in scientific studies and study. Until then, caution should be exercised.