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Marijuana: Is Smoking Weed Bad For Your Mental Health?

First Posted: Feb 17, 2016 03:03 PM EST

As of 2016, 23 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is fully legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. As time changes and more states accept marijuana--either medicinally or both medicinally and recreationally--concerns come up regarding potential health effects.

New findings published in JAMA Psychiatry examine marijuana use and the risk of mental health and substance use disorders in the general population.

This recent study used a nationally representative sample to examine over 30,000 U.S. adults whom were interviewed three years apart in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Findings revealed that marijuana use by adults was associated with an increased risk of developing both alcohol and drug use disorders, including nicotine dependence at three years of follow-up. However, marijuana use was not associated with an increased risk of developing mood or anxiety disorders, researchers say. Furthermore, the study cannot, at this time, determine a causal association between cannabis use and the new onset of disorders.

Furthermore, the use of medical marijuana has been shown to be helpful for some patients with severe epilepsy or certain types of chronic pain, among other health issues.

While marijuana use can stimulate brain cells that release the chemical dopamine, creating a relaxing, "high" feeling (that may also make you hungry or give you the "munchies"), it can also cause panic, fear or anxiety (paranoia), trouble concentrating and other problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 17.4 million people in the United States, said that they used marijuana in the past month. The survey shows that marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug--with about 4 in 10 Americans using it at least once in their lives, according to the NIH. 

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