Recreational cannabis is gaining popularity globally, but there is indication cannabis usage causing increased anxiety in some.
According to the 2020 national cannabis survey conducted by Statistics Canada, one in five people living in the provinces reported using cannabis in the past three months.
Although widely suggested for alleviating anxiety, it is also recognized for having adverse effects on mental health such as panic disorders, anxiety, paranoia and mania, according to the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI).
An Ontario study of about 12.1 million people aged 10 to 105 showed 34,822 had a hospital emergency visit for an anxiety disorder incident due to cannabis use between January 2008 and March 2019.
The study, published by The Lancet, found there was a 3.7-fold increased risk of a hospital visit for anxiety disorders because of cannabis compared to the general population.
“The risk of having an incident healthcare visit for an anxiety disorder was higher in individuals with (emergency department) visits for cannabis use compared to the general population across all age and sex strata,” according to the study led by Jess G. Fiedorowicz and Marco Solmia. “However, younger males with ED visits for cannabis use had a greater risk relative to the general population than younger women with cannabis use.”
Natasha Bradley, 27, noticed her experiences and reactions to marijuana changed over time.
She said it affects her differently now, compared to four years ago.
“Back then, I had the typical uni experience. Excessive laughter, munchies, carefreeness with friends and all the good vibes, which would eventually die down to a feeling of relaxation,” she said.
It all changed in the last couple of months, Bradley said.
“I was walking home after work at around 6 p.m. in December, and had this paranoid feeling that I was being followed by a couple of people. Turns out I was the only one walking, and the street was quiet,” she said.
She recalled another incident when she felt she was going to fall over the railing while taking some pictures.
“I felt I was on the 15th floor and would fall over if I went closer toward the railing, trying to get a better picture. But in reality, I was on a patio only two storeys above the ground,” Bradley said.
Vishesh Raj, a student at Humber, said his experiences with marijuana caused a sense of paranoia and discomfort.
He said in one experience he felt very warm even though it was 4 C outside, and had to open all the doors and windows of his house.
In another experience, he said he felt the flame of a lighter was burning him even though the lighter was not in use.
He said he felt very anxious when he talked to someone while he was high on cannabis.
Gabriela Yepez, associate director of Counselling and Mental Health Services at Humber College with regards to long-term anxiety disorders, said just like using any other depressant or stimulant, if one is not feeling their best they should avoid using cannabis to self-medicate.
“In the long run, research is suggesting cannabis use may have, if not adverse effects, but some newer diagnosis of anxiety,” she said.
Yepez discourages young adults from using the drug because their brain is still developing and bodies are still growing. Yepez said the substances are chemicals going into the body and will affect the chemicals in the brain.
If one is developing substance-induced psychosis depending on the extent of the effect, she said they should try different methods of overcoming anxiousness.
“Sometimes people need to go to the emergency department to get some support or treatment, consultation with general practitioners, psychiatry,” she said.
She said that the if effects could endanger safety, medical support is needed.