Marijuana Use and Depression
Although marijuana is illegal in the US, some people still use it. Among those who do, some use it to try to cope with stress and others just use it for the "high." Besides the legal consequences of being caught with the drug, some studies have found evidence suggesting that marijuana use may be associated with depression. Other studies have contradicted these findings, suggesting that marijuana is not related to depression. So, is marijuana use related to depressions, and if so, does it matter why a person uses the drug? A recent study by researchers from The Ohio State University and Kent State University provided some answers to these questions.
What was the research about?
The data for the study came from the 1985 portion of the Young Men and Drugs Survey, which involved face-to-face interviews with thousands of men over several years. The men who participated in the survey were a good representation of 30- to 40-year-old men in the general US population during 1985. The participants were asked questions about marijuana use, educational attainment, employment and marital status, other drug use, and depression.
The results showed that marijuana use, stress, and depression were related in a complex way. In general, men who had used marijuana at some point in their lives, spent fewer years in school, were less likely to be married or have jobs, and used other drugs (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, other illegal drugs) more, which accounted for why they became more depressed than did those who had not ever used marijuana. The frequency of current marijuana use, however, was not related to depression for everyone. Increased frequency of current marijuana use was associated with more depression only for those who used it as a way to try to cope with stress. For those who did not use marijuana as a way to try to cope with stress, increased frequency of current marijuana use was actually associated with less depression. Due to the nature of the study, however, it is unclear whether marijuana can actually cause depression for some people or whether the two just tend to seem related for other reasons.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are depressed probably should not try to use marijuana to cope with their problems because it might actually make things worse. Even though marijuana use may actually lead to less depression for those who do not try to use it as a way of coping, the negative legal consequences of being caught with the drug and the stress that most likely would follow are probably not worth risk.
Source: Green, B. E., & Ritter, C. (2000). Marijuana use and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 40-49.