Cannabis and your mental health.

Does cannabis cause mental health issues?

This is a question often hotly debated.  People who frown on cannabis use cite examples of poorer mental health outcomes among people they know who use cannabis as evidence for why it should be banned.  People who use cannabis and enjoy a sense of euphoria and relaxation will claim it improves their mental health and should be legalised.

The strong emotions aroused around this debate can make considered decision making difficult, particularly for young people.

We know young adults aged 18 – 24 years are most likely to have used illicit drugs in the past twelve months, with cannabis being the most common drug of choice[1].  Young adult men have higher drug use and more hospitalisations because of this.  However, does this equate to mental health issues?

The truthful answer is it depends on several issues such as:

·         Whether you have been diagnosed with a pre-existing mental health issue.

·         Where you are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness; and

·         If there is a history of mental health issues within your family.[2]

Cannabis can make existing mental health conditions worse.  For example, people who use cannabis frequently and over a long period may be at risk of developing a major depressive disorder.[3]  

It is also true, some anxious people are more likely to become dependent on cannabis. While it may help alleviate some of the anxiety symptoms, it does not address the fundamental issue of what is causing the anxiety.

However, it isn’t just your mental health you need to think about; there is also dependency.  This is where you become dependent on using cannabis on a regular and increasing basis. While cannabis itself may not cause you to be depressed or anxious, it is not uncommon for a young person who is dependent on cannabis to disengage from school or have issues with their employment if employed.  The consequences of being dependent on cannabis can lead to depression, anxiety, and mental health issues.

Then there are the legal consequences; for example, if you are caught driving with cannabis, you can be charged with driving with an illicit drug in oral fluid/blood, driving while impaired by drugs or driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  Driving is only one example of where there are legal consequences to using cannabis.  Losing your licence can have flow-on effects, particularly if you need your licence for your employment.

If you are going to use, think first.

If you need more information and want to discuss your drug use so you can make good choices, phone:

Druginfo – 1300 85 85 84

National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline – 1800 250 015

 

 – Written by David Kernohan, Director of Youth Legal Services


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