As restrictions on marijuana use fall and its popularity around the world rises, researchers and therapists are examining its influence on mental health. Some medical experts say cannabis has a negative effect on the psychological well-being of chronic users, though it’s unclear whether it exacerbates existing issues or creates new ones.

Carrie Cuttler.
Cuttler

Carrie Cuttler, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University, researches how cannabis helps those with PTSD. Her September study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that marijuana reduced repetitive thoughts about a traumatic event by 62%, flashbacks by 51%, anxiety by 57% and irritability by 67%.

“What we generally find across the board for depression, anxiety, stress, OCD symptoms, PTSD symptoms, is approximately 50% reductions in the severity of of these symptoms from immediately before, to immediately after cannabis use,” Cuttler said.

The main reason medical marijuana patients use the plant, she said, is for pain, followed by anxiety and depression.

“Cannabis is serving as a bit of a Band-Aid, in that what it’s doing is temporarily masking these mental health symptoms, but it’s not doing anything to address the root core issue that is maintaining those symptoms over time,” Cuttler said.

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