Does Long-Term Marijuana Use Help or Hinder Depression And Anxiety?

By Seth Ferranti 12/27/16

A new study out of Colorado found a surprising link between mood disorders and long-term marijuana use.

Woman holding marijuana joint.

A new study from Colorado State University researchers examined how long-term and chronic marijuana use affects neurological activity, particularly emotional processing.

Their research was based on 178 in-depth questionnaire responses from legal, college-aged cannabis users. From this pool, the research team created three groups: casual users, chronic users and a control group of those who had never used cannabis. 

“Use patterns in adolescents and young adults have become an increasing focus in states where cannabis use is legal,” the report stated. “We therefore conducted a follow-up study with a different population to see if there is a relationship in our undergraduate college population between cannabis use and mood. Our study places a heavy emphasis on external validity, where reported residual cannabis use reflects the environment that is occurring in and therefore aims to represent an ecologically valid snap shot of cannabis use in our student population.”

The findings, published in Peer Jrevealed that marijuana users who smoked cannabis to alleviate feelings of depression were not achieving the desired effect. Currently, mood and anxiety disorders are not an approved medical marijuana condition (with the exception of PTSD in 11 states). Those who self-medicated to treat their anxiety had slightly better results than those who self-medicated for depression, but researchers say they cannot say whether cannabis causes or cures either

“The relationship between cannabis and mood disorders is of particular interest to a wide audience including educators and researchers alike,” the report concluded. According to the data, individuals who used infrequently had "a stronger relationship with negative mood." These findings led researchers to believe that pot "may not necessarily be an effective treatment for depressive symptoms but it may in fact contribute to deficits in emotion processing.”

This report flies in the face of the common perception that pot helps people chill out and relieve anxiety. It documents that although cannabis can help with depression and anxiety in the short term, it may digress the condition later on down the road. Relying on past studies that report how chronic use plays a role in physiological aspect like mood and memory, researchers are conducting more studies to clarify the contrasting notions of thought when it comes to marijuana, depression and anxiety.  

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.