Cannabis Use Linked to Anxiety

cannabis useAddiction is a mental health condition that often occurs with another disorder, such as depression or anxiety. When two conditions coincide, a patient is said to have a co-occurring disorder. It’s crucial that the addiction and co-occurring disorder (otherwise known as a dual diagnosis) receive treatment at the same time; concurrent therapy improves a patient’s ability to achieve long-term recovery.

Although treatable, there is much still unknown about mental health conditions; why they occur in specific people at certain times in their life. Substance use disorder is a disease that develops over time, whereas anxiety or depression can seem like it sprung out of nowhere. There are times when one’s addiction predates their co-occurring disorder and other instances when the reverse is the case.

Untreated anxiety can lead individuals down a path of desperate measures to find relief. Common symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, poor concentration, or trembling. A desire to calm such symptoms is only natural, and mind-altering substances sometimes help accomplish that task, at first. Interestingly, people who meet the criteria for anxiety disorder often use marijuana. The link persists despite the fact that cannabis use has been known to cause paranoia. Nevertheless, a large contingent of people with anxiety disorders uses cannabis regularly.

Problematic Marijuana Use and Childhood Anxiety

A team of researchers from Duke Health studied the link between childhood anxiety and problematic cannabis use, according to a press release. Using data from 1,229 participants in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, the research team tracked participants’ patterns of cannabis use from the college years (ages 19-21) into adulthood (ages 26-30). The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Of the participants, 7 percent were persistent users, limited users (13 percent), and delayed users (4 percent). Persistent users could have started using “pot” at the age of 9, using the drug significantly into their early 30’s, the article reports. The researchers found that 27 percent of persistent users had anxiety disorders when they were children.

“This suggests that a focus on mental health and well-being could go a long way to prevent the most problematic use,” said lead author Sherika Hill, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty associate at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Aiming Prevention Efforts

Substance use prevention efforts have long focused on adolescents, but the research indicates that adults deserve attention, too. It’s unclear why somebody with an anxiety disorder would begin using marijuana problematically for the first time in adulthood, but a small group of people does. As cannabis laws ease, adults without any history of marijuana use may turn to the drug. Substance use is not a treatment for mental illness; marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to addiction—often requiring help. Hill said:

“A lot of current interventions and policies in the U.S. are aimed at early adolescent users. We have to start thinking about how we are going to address problematic use that may arise in a growing population of older users.”

If you suffer from anxiety and are using marijuana problematically, please contact Synergy Group Services.

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