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Pot and Depression

answered 09:04 PM EST, Sat February 25, 2012
Does marijuana have any impact on depression? I have been a smoker for about 11 years and it is something that I enjoy. Nowadays it is one of the few things I look forward to. I don’t smoke everyday but I Probably smoke 4 or 5 times per week, or whenever I have an evening to myself without work commitments.

I think I have some mild depression. My doctor has recommended Zoloft but I am trying to hold off on the medication and I am seeing if my new exercise routine might help. So far it is not really making me feel much better but after a few weeks of exercise I have managed to lose like 5 pounds, so at least that’s something.

So long story short, my girlfriend is bugging me to stop smoking pot because she thinks that it is not helping with my depression. I do not know if she is right or not, although it has never before caused me to feel depressed and I have been using it for a long time. However, because it is truly one of the few things in my life right now that brings me any pleasure at all I really don’t want to give that away. At least it gets me out of my head for a while and lets me zone out into a movie or some video games.

Given that I have used marijuana for a long time without problems, is my occasional marijuana use likely playing any role in the depression I am feeling right now?

Dr. Ari Hahn Says...

Dr. Ari Hahn A. Hahn

Depression is a very difficult subject to properly address in a posting. There are probably many types of depression - more than we have diagnoses. Many people who have depression can get other diagnoses and others who are not depressed will get diagnosed with depression. So my answer will be general, but I hope helpful.

I have not heard anything indicating that marijuana causes depression. I would not be surprised if it did in some people, but from what you are saying, I do not think it caused you to be depressed. You surely have other factors in your life, other stressors, important relationships and responsibilities that can effect your mood. It sounds like your main symptom is that you have lost interest in previously enjoyable activities. If this is true, then there are two avenues to begin to effect a change. One is to change your body chemistry. The doctor does this by prescribing medication. If you persist with the exercise for at least three times a week for at least 12 weeks you are very likely to achieve the same change in body chemistry as two weeks of anti-depressants. Whatever you do, keep it up for at least a year.

But there is a psychological factor also. For that you need to engage in positive interactions with other people. You should be able to do more of that as the effects of the exercise or medication kick in. However, here is where marijuana can be detrimental. Smoking is not a positive social interaction. Even when you do it with friends, it gives a pleasure independent of being with the company or not. They become your friends because you are experiencing a parallel internal experience. That is not an real relationship. Friends share external experiences. As long as your major form of recreation is drug related you will be vulnerable to depressions. And although it sounds like you think you are a light or occasional user, heavy users are defined by smoking more than three times a week.

So if you want to cure and avoid depression I would strongly suggest that you cut back your pot use in a major way and learn the pleasure of sharing positive and negative emotions with your loved ones.

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Page last updated Feb 25, 2012

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