Marijuana and Depression?
Can marijuana cause depression?
I'm not aware of any direct evidence that marijuana use causes depression. But a number of scientific studies have found that people often use marijuana to mask depression -- or turn to marijuana or other drugs to relieve symptoms of depression.
One 1997 study from the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, surveyed 37 men and women, ages 30 to 74, who spanned a wide range of ethnic groups, educational backgrounds, occupations, and income levels. All the participants reported they began smoking in the early 1960s or 1970s and continued to smoke heavily into middle adulthood because they felt marijuana relieved unpleasant feelings of anxiety or depression.
Similar findings emerged from a study at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where researchers found that greater levels of depression were associated with an increased use of drugs and alcohol -- as well as reduced attendance at work or school and lower overall rating of marital satisfaction. (However, researchers didn't find a correlation between marijuana usage levels and severity of depression -- those who got more pot weren't more depressed.)
And still another study, this one from the University of Vermont, examined the lack of motivation often seen among heavy users of marijuana. Once again, researchers found depression to be at the root of the problem.
Marijuana isn't the only drug that's associated with depression. Others include tranquilizers, all antihistamines, sleeping pills, as well as alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, and "downers." All of these can intensify depression, even those that cause temporary elevation of mood. Addiction to coffee and other forms of caffeine can also interfere with normal moods and worsen depression.
Buddhist psychology holds that depression is the necessary consequence of seeking stimulation -- it advises seeking emotional balance instead of reaching for highs and then complaining about the lows that inevitably follow. The basic Buddhist prescription is daily meditation, which can get at the root of depression and change it. I agree, but unfortunately, meditation doesn't produce rapid results. For faster, symptomatic treatment of depression, nothing works better than aerobic exercise: 30 minutes of continuous activity, at least five days a week. If you're depressed, exercise may be the last thing you want to do, but if you force yourself, you should notice results within a few weeks.