Drug Facts Chat Day: Marijuana

Marijuana and mental illness

NIDA-funded research shows that when usage starts during the teen years, marijuana use is associated with impaired thinking, memory, and learning functions. It is also associated with a number of mental conditions, including psychosis (schizophrenia), depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. However, it is not yet clear whether marijuana use directly causes these issues or just makes them worse. Currently, the strongest evidence is for the link between marijuana and psychosis in persons with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability. Marijuana intoxication can, in rare cases, produce a temporary psychosis. Marijuana may contribute to the development or worsening of the mental illness, or it may reflect combinations of the above.

Marijuana 2018 MTF results

High school seniors: About 6 percent are smoking marijuana daily--similar to last year’s rates. More than 22 percent say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and almost 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year.

10th graders: About 3 percent say they use marijuana daily, with nearly 17 percent reporting past month use and 28 percent reporting use in the previous year.

8th Graders: Less than 1 percent say they use marijuana daily. Close to 6 percent say they used it in the past month. Almost 11 percent say they used it in the past year.

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

The gateway concept is one that generates a lot of controversy. The research is not yet settled but it suggests that while most people who smoke marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, most teens who use other illegal drugs try marijuana first. For example, the risk of using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. However, this is also true for alcohol and tobacco. Animal studies suggest that—because the teen brain is still developing—early use of marijuana alcohol or tobacco may alter the brain’s reward system, putting teens at higher risk of using other drugs. In addition, using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who use and sell other drugs, increasing the risk of additional drug use.

Why is weed illegal if it is a medicine?

Marijuana for medical use has been in the news a lot lately. The marijuana plant has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition. There is early research suggesting that some of the active ingredients in marijuana, like THC and cannabidiol (CBD), may potentially help treat things like epilepsy, cancer, obesity, or addiction. Scientists are studying these ingredients to try to develop new medications. A pill form of THC (an active ingredient in marijuana) is already available for certain conditions, such as nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and weight loss in patients with AIDS. Also, FDA approved a CBD-based liquid medication for the treatment of two forms of sever childhood epilepsy. However, smoked marijuana is unlikely to be an ideal medication because of its negative health effects, including the risk of addiction and the damage that smoking can do to the lungs.