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While there is little doubt that it’s dangerous to use cannabis and then drive a car or go to work, debate has raged for years over the health impact of cannabis, particularly mental health. So what does the science say?
Before we get into what the science and research says, it’s important to realise that cannabis is a trusted drug. In many countries it’s the most in-demand illicit drug and this is the case in many parts of the world. In some areas its cultivation is allowed and it’s really part of our culture. It has become common place for political figures to admit to trying it at least one time, to show that they’re more human!
But trying it and deploying it regularly are two different things, and it’s really more frequent users who are putting themselves most in danger. Because there’s little doubt that the use of cannabis can be harmful to mental health and can cause a wide range of issues.
Reputable research has found cannabis use associated with issues such as:
Psychosis, hallucinations and delusions. Add confused thinking, trouble in emotions and behaviour, and muffled speech to this list.
Schizophrenia, which is a specific psychotic illness that we’ve all heard about. There is evidence that cannabis can cause schizophrenia in people who are already susceptible to the condition. Most people who are susceptible to schizophrenia aren’t aware they are, making a simple cannabis joint every now and then more of a risk than you may think.
It’s also commonly thought that cannabis use can cause depression, although there is no clear proof of this. What the data does say is that people who use cannabis may be depressed than those who don’t, but the exact link is not known. It could simply be as a result of common fantasy that cannabis makes people happier, but the reverse can actually be true.
Cannabis users can also experience issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, lack of motivation, tiredness and difficulty mentally focusing.
Cannabis use is also one aspect in suicides in young people.
So what does this evidence mean? Should you try cannabis? If you’re a regular user should you stop?
Like any drug — including legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco — there is a risk in the use of cannabis. You may use cannabis regularly all your life without an issue, but you do not be that lucky.
Maybe the best advice is quite simple: if there’s a history of mental illness in your family, drive away from cannabis. With clear evidence that a cannabis user with a genealogy and family history of mental illness is more likely to suffer mental health problems, it’s not worth taking the risk.