Cannabis and Depression

Liz Filmer
21 Sep 2022

Much is written about cannabis and its effects on mental health conditions such as depression. Some say it can exacerbate symptoms, while others say it helps relieve them. So let's look at both sides of the story.

Is Cannabis a Cause of Depression?

Some research suggests that weed smokers are diagnosed with depression more often than non-users. However, there is no evidence that smoking weed is a direct cause of depression. It is more likely that a mixture of genetic, environmental or other factors that trigger depression also lead to marijuana use.

 Some people with depression may use cannabis to detach themselves from their symptoms. Heavy users may seem depressed, thanks to the dulling effect cannabis can have on you physically and mentally.

There are links between cannabis and other mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and psychosis. Cannabis may aggravate the symptoms of diagnosed psychotic illness if heavy regular use continues.

There is also limited evidence that teenagers who attempt suicide may be more likely to have used cannabis than those who have not tried it. More research on cannabis use and depression is needed to understand these associations better.

Cannabis use and depression occur more often than you expect; however, there is no clear evidence currently that it is a direct cause of depression.

Can Cannabis Help Depression?

There is some evidence that weed may help ease symptoms of depression in the short term. Some users say it makes them happier, relaxed and more peaceful.

A 2020 study from "The Journal of Biology and Medicine" discovered that 95% of people agreed that cannabis gave them fast, short-term relief from symptoms of depression.

A 2018 study published in the "Journal of Affective Disorders" reported similar findings. It found that people who took just two puffs of medical cannabis saw their symptoms improve by about 50%. However, continued use appeared to worsen their symptoms.

The Take-Away

More than 30 U.S. states and various other countries legally allow cannabis for medicinal use.

Much debate has occurred over what conditions should qualify for approved use of cannabis. While some believe cannabis can help with depression, there is not yet enough evidence to recommend using cannabis to treat depression and using cannabis for this purpose comes with risks.

Research on the potential benefits of cannabis for depression is still in the early stages, and more in-depth evidence is needed. Depression and cannabis use often co-occur, but trying to figure out their relationship with one another is a chicken-and-egg type problem that medical science is yet to solve.


Liz Filmer