Is marijuana making you depressed like this study says it is?

Is marijuana making you depressed like this study says it is?

VicesJuly 17, 2014

Marijuana does a lot of great things for you, like compel you to eat shrimp-flavored Top Ramen and cure cancer. But according to a recent study by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it might also make you really, really emo if you smoke it everyday. Has this ever happened to you?

The study found that among heavy-duty weed smokers, who smoked up to five joints a day five times a week, the high levels of THC caused malfunctions in their dopamine functioning. Dopamine is the brain hormone that regulates feelings of reward and pleasure, and that tells you to keep doing something that feels good. Like sex, or drugs, or ripping your samurai-sword shaped bong.

Specifically, the research showed that super stoners produced the same amount of dopamine as the control group, but their bodies weren't as good at utilizing it as the control group's. That lead to marijuana maniacs showing "lower positive and higher negative emotionality scores than controls, which is consistent, on one hand, with lower reward sensitivity and motivation and, on the other hand, with increased stress reactivity and irritability," the researchers wrote. Translation: heavy smokers weren't getting the dopamine they needed to avoid depression, stress and irritability. The researchers found this effect in every member of the heavy smoker group.

Which, if you've been following marijuana research at all, seems to conflict with the a large body of research that says weed can aid depression, reduce stress, and ease anxiety. But, given how THC has wildly different effects on people based on their personal chemistry, and how other studies have linked marijuana consumption to increased risk of mental illness, we could see how the results of the study could be possible.

Why is there so much conflicting information about how marijuana affects mental illness? Well, two reasons. First, you can't research it without a small miracle, it being a Schedule 1 substance and all. There are so many barriers to researching it that in this country that, understandably, it would be hard to come up with definitive findings.

Second, marijuana is like any drug. No two people will react to it in the same way. That's why it's a little strange that all the heavy smokers in the study exhibited compromised dopamine functioning. This finding makes us think it's more likely  that the heavy smokers already suffered from some negative psychological state like stress and depression, and were using bales of marijuana to mediate those pre-existing condition, not that marijuana use caused them to feel that way.

Who's right and who's wrong? What is the meaning of life?

The connection between marijuana and mental malaise is such a back-and-forth topic that we wanted to get your opinion on it. Have you ever felt psychologically harmed by weed? Or is it the only thing that keeps your mental stuff at bay? Or does smoking it just make you eat 10 Beefy Cheese Burritos from T-Bell then fall asleep in a pile of Archie comics? Let us know by messaging us at our Facebook page or commenting on this article, ya hear?