Does Weed Reduce Stress?

By Mark G. McLaughlin

Smoking weed takes the user to another place – briefly. The high from weed may mellow you out (or make you feel even more anxious), but only for a short while. Whatever problems that were causing the stress, anxiety or depression that led you to self-medicate in the first place will not only still be there when you straighten out, but they may even get worse. Here are a few reasons why doctors, therapists and other health professionals do not recommend weed for patients who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression.

A short-term reprieve, not a permanent solution

Different things cause stress – and differing levels of it – in different people. While major life-altering events such as the death of a loved one or a breakup obviously cause heartbreak, the everyday pressures of trying to do well in school or maintain relationships with friends and family can cause us plenty of stress, too. But getting high is not going to make your stressors disappear, nor will it resolve any existing problems. To the contrary, smoking weed at higher doses to try to deal with stress can actually increase anxiety. Not only that, but it can create new, worse problems in your life—like ones with your parents, school officials and law enforcement. Remember, while it’s now legal to sell recreational marijuana in California, possession of pot for those under the age of 18 is still illegal.

The side effects

For some, weed provides relaxation for a brief period of time, but that feeling only masks the real problems – and may prevent the user from seeking the help they really need to deal with those issues.

Not everyone reacts the same to marijuana. For others, smoking pot doesn’t help them relax; instead, it makes them hyper or paranoid, and some people even experience panic attacks. Others go into a downward spiral of depression and anxiety triggered by the chemical compound THC (tetrahydrocannabol) – the principal high-inducing chemical in cannabis products.

Long-term effects

While many people can smoke marijuana and not become addicted, that is not the case for everyone, especially teenagers, who are up to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder. Some people begin to feel that they need weed to escape, to deal with daily issues, or just to feel better for a short time. In other cases, regular users find they need to smoke more and more often to produce the same high, or that they no longer get the relief they want from weed – so they turn to harder drugs. A 2017 report on the Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health shows that, “Using marijuana to cope with anxiety may offer some short-term benefit, but well-controlled studies indicate that use of marijuana is associated with increased likelihood of substance use disorders.”  In rare cases, smoking weed can do far worse damage to the psyche, inducing schizophrenia in adolescents who have a genetic susceptibility to the disorder.

Getting high may be fun for a few minutes or hours, but the problems you’re trying forget will still be there when you sober up – and you will be even less equipped to deal with those problems once you’re no longer high.