Study Shows That Pot Causes Depression and Anxiety
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Study Shows That Pot Causes Depression and Anxiety


This post was originally published on July 21, 2014.

Everyone knows that smoking pot makes you feel, well, high. Of course, it can make you feel lots of other things too—for instance, you could get goofy, happy, mellow, excited, loopy, slow, stunted, dumb, distracted, freaked out, paranoid, sensitive, sleepy…Whatever, you get the gist: pot’s effects are personal; they totally depend on the person and their individual brain chemistry and body quirks.

Not as High as We Thought

Now this piece in TIME mag is kinda blowing our minds by revealing that, in a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that out of 24 people who smoked marijuana daily, most of them had “blunted behavioral, cardiovascular and brain responses” in response to getting treated with a drug called methylphenidate (a stimulant often used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy).

The weed lovers also scored lower on tests of “positive emotional activity” (er, whatever that means), and higher on “negative emotional reactions.”

The scientists think that not only does marijuana negatively affect our brains’ dopamine reaction to stimulants, but that the drug can also impact the brain area that’s involved in “reward processing”—i.e., “The participants had lower reward sensitivity, higher levels of irritability, and likely more depression and anxiety.”

Sorta Proof That Weed’s a Gateway Drug

The researchers’ final findings indicated that the way marijuana interferes with the brain may also contribute to further drug cravings, and that, when it comes to what’s going on inside our grey matter, what we think of as a “high” might actually be, well, the opposite.

Which probably isn’t big news to every pot smoker out there. Sure, I’ve known plenty of potheads in my day—I went to a tiny hippie college in the middle of nowhere for two long years—but one thing those folks didn’t have in common was how the drug made them feel. Obviously they all kept smoking because they got some kind of buzz from it, but I found it interesting how some folks would get crazy-paranoid when they were stoned, refusing to leave the house and not wanting to look anyone in the eye, while their best friends could look and act perfectly “normal” and have absolutely no qualms about going to parties, movies, dinner, you name it.

Keep On Just Saying No

Others drugs don’t seem to have such a variable effect; like, doesn’t cocaine kind of make everyone jumpy and talkative and speedy?

In any case, this new study could be helpful to keep in mind if your brother is ever lighting up a joint and you catch a whiff and it just smells soooooo…fun. Stop right there and remember, no matter what anyone tells you, that high is not a high. Now drink some Perrier and forget it.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.