Cannabis: The Fix for Mood & Anxiety Probs?

It was September 1972. The gang was circled in my dorm room, and the joint got passed to me. I half-faked smoking it, but I did. Bammo! I was high. Bammo! I was frightened. I ran to my older brother’s room in panic. He pushed me out of the way to go catch a good buzz.

I’d wager that 60% of the mood and anxiety disorder clients I’ve worked with consistently use cannabis. Most know they’re self-medicating; however, many have no clue.

But the question is this. Is using cannabis for the treatment of depression, the anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder the right or wrong thing to do? Let’s talk it over.

Oh, don’t forget to read yesterday’s intro piece on cannabis. Just click here.

Medicinal Cannabis? Really?

It used to be smoke, dealers, and users. These days it’s medicate, caregivers, and patients. “I’m going to head home, ease back, and catch a buzz.” No, no, no – you’re going to medicate.

I support the medicinal use of cannabis – when it’s legit. Though the FDA hasn’t approved smoked cannabis for any medical condition, it brings relief to many.

Well documented is the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of nausea and vomiting, as well as glaucoma. And it’s proven effective in the stimulation of hunger in AIDS and chemotherapy patients, and pain relief.

Heck, cannabis is available in prescription form – dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet).

Smaller studies tout that cannabis shows promise in the treatment of issues such as multiple sclerosis and depression.

Who would deny anyone the right to secure relief for their discomfort?


Fourteen states in the U.S. have legalized cannabis for medicinal use. That’s a good thing, given the misery we just discussed. However, I’m disappointed that the pro-recreational cannabis supporters are leveraging the medicinal angle in their quest for legalization.

And as with any mood and mind-altering substance, profiteers are all over the place.

In 2005, Colorado voters OK’d an amendment to their constitution to legalize the possession of cannabis for those suffering from debilitating medical conditions. It was also approved for the treatment of severe nausea and severe pain. Vague terminology, don’t you think?

How did it work? Upon the recommendation of a doctor, a patient could designate a friend or neighbor to grow up to six plants for his/her use. Each caregiver could assist no more than five patients. Both patient and caregiver had to register with the state.

It worked – for a time.

A pro-pot group sued Colorado’s health department, and the five-patient limit was deemed unconstitutional. With no cap on the number of patients a caregiver could have, the floodgates opened. Let’s just say a whole lot of Coloradans became suddenly ill.

And a whole bunch of caregivers became suddenly wealthy.

Cannabis for the Mood & Anxiety Disorders?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s piece; you really have to be careful when you consider research on cannabis. The studies are often of poor quality and unreliable. The bottom-line is, most are trying to fit results to their agenda.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of cannabis use for those enduring depression, the anxiety  disorders, and bipolar disorder.


  • An alternative for those relying upon opioid pain relievers (e.g.: Vicodin), benzodiazepines (Xanax), stimulants (Concerta), antidepressants, and sleep meds
  • Relief from the side effects of psychotropic meds
  • Provides a mood lift (cannabis/THC has no impact on serotonin. It does, however, interact with a brain substance known as anandamide, which results in a soothing sensation)
  • An add-on to conventional treatment for bipolar disorder
  • Minimization of mood episode cycling
  • Relief from extended major depressive episodes
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved appetite, sleep, and sensations of pleasure
  • Potential increase in the production of neurons (neurogenesis)
  • Relief from pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)


  • May increase the risk of developing depression, schizophrenia, and psychotic symptoms
  • Cannabis users often withdraw socially, exacerbating their depression
  • If using an antidepressant, cannabis use can interfere with its action
  • Destroys natural sleep
  • May cause severe anxiety and edginess in those enduring moderate to severe depression
  • Side effects of cannabis are very similar to those of antidepressants. Adding cannabis to the mix may paint a nasty side effect picture
  • Amotivational syndrome (apathy, social withdrawal, poor overall functioning) is common amongst chronic cannabis users. That can only make an already depressed individual feel even worse
  • What may be considered normal effects of cannabis can be very distressing to someone in the midst of, or predisposed to, a mood and/or anxiety disorder. The story I shared at the beginning is based in my high fooling me into believing I was experiencing derealization/depersonalization.

My Opinion & The Wrap

I would never deny an informed adult, of sound mind, the right to use cannabis. I have major issues, however, with child and adolescent use. Their brains are in the midst of amazing development, and cannabis use may cause major problems.

In my opinion, the use of cannabis by someone enduring a mood and/or anxiety disorder is dicey business. And if psychotropic medications are involved, the ante is raised significantly.

If you’re using cannabis and are under the care of a physician for any condition, shoot straight with him or her about it. There’s so much that can go wrong if you don’t.

And that’s a wrap on our cannabis series. I hope you found it meaningful and helpful.