Cannabis and mental health - Effects
How can cannabis make me feel?
The effects of cannabis can be pleasant or unpleasant. Most symptoms will usually last for a few hours. But some unpleasant symptoms of cannabis can stay in the body for a few weeks.
Cannabis can make you feel happy, relaxed, talkative or laugh more than usual. You may find that colours are more intense and music sounds better. Pleasant effects are known as a ‘high.’
Cannabis can cause anxiety attacks, hallucinations, depersonalisation, make you feel anxious, aggressive, paranoid, delusional and disorientated. You might find it harder to concentrate or remember things. You may find that you cannot sleep well and you feel depressed. You may also feel hungry or like time is slowing down.
If you use cannabis for a long period of time you might feel depressed and have lower motivation.
Cannabis can affect how you sense things. You may see, hear or feel things differently. This is known as hallucinating. Hallucinations can be a sign of psychosis.
Psychosis can be a symptom of mental illness, including schizophrenia, schizoaffective and bipolar disorder. These can be called ‘psychotic illnesses.’
You can find more information about, 'Psychosis’ here.
Can cannabis affect my mental health?
It is widely accepted that cannabis use can cause short term psychotic episodes. But there is good research to show that cannabis use can cause severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar and psychosis. Most research seems to have a focus on the link between psychosis and cannabis, and schizophrenia and cannabis. But there is no definite evidence that cannabis causes psychotic illnesses.
Cannabis may be one of the causes of developing a mental illness but it is not be the only cause for many people. Not everyone who uses cannabis will develop psychosis or schizophrenia. Not everyone who has psychosis or schizophrenia has used cannabis. But you are more likely to develop a psychotic illness if you smoke cannabis. And are ‘genetically vulnerable’ to mental health problems.
‘Genetically vulnerable’ means that you are naturally more likely to develop a mental health problem. For example if people in your family have a mental illness, you may be more likely to develop a mental health problem. But it doesn’t mean that you will.
Researchers studied a group of 18-20 year olds who smoked cannabis. When researchers followed them up more than 15 years later they found that participants were:
- more likely to develop psychosis if they used skunk instead of milder cannabis,
- 2 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than someone who doesn’t take cannabis, and
- 6 times more likely develop schizophrenia if they are a heavy cannabis user compared to someone who doesn’t take cannabis.
Different research studies found the following:
- Long term use can have a small but permanent effect on how well you think and concentrate.
- Smoking cannabis can cause a psychotic relapse if you have a psychotic illness.
- You are more likely to develop depression and anxiety in young adulthood if you smoke cannabis from an early age.
- You are more likely to get psychosis if you start using cannabis in your youth.
Cannabis may affect young people more because their brains are still developing up until the age of 20.
You can find more information about, ‘Does mental illness run in families’ here.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays