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Marijuana Legalization & Addiction
The marijuana legalization in many states has more individuals seeking marijuana prescriptions for Depression, Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The opportunity to demonstrate its effectiveness in treating emotional/mental health issues has arrived and creates debate among medical and treatment professionals.
While clinical research in this area is lacking, individuals and professionals have noted the beneficial effects of marijuana on managing symptoms related to mental and emotional distress. Many report improved sleep, decreased anxiety, and an increased sense of well being. This is where the difficulties begin as utilizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in treating mental health issues may make matters worse.
It is important to identify the difference between symptom focused treatment and problem focused treatment. Marijuana along with medications such as Xanax and Ativan are commonly used to decrease symptoms of emotional distress and argued to be effective in meeting the treatment goal of symptom reduction. Unfortunately marijuana and some prescription medication fail to address the underlying cause of the symptoms leaving the condition untreated and an individual dependent on the substance to manage their emotional state. Side effects of low motivation, fatigue, poor concentration, withdrawal from daily activities, and worse paranoia and psychosis as reported in some cases. When it comes to one’s mood it is not clear if marijuana causes depression but those who report a decrease in depressed mood while using often state the depression returns and becomes worse as the effects of marijuana wear off. Sadly, reliance on marijuana grows into dependence when one feels they cannot function without it.
“Emphasis on problem resolution instead of the symptom reduction would be the most effective way to manage psychosocial stressors and improve mood”, says Dr. Gerald Grosso, Clinical Director at Nsight Psychology and Addiction. Focus on the issues that cause depression, anxiety, and emotional distress is considerably more productive and may have lasting effects. While it may be more painful to experience the feelings that result from trauma, grief and loss, and difficult life experiences one has the opportunity to develop the coping skills necessary to manage life challenges. Dr. Grosso states “The process of identification and acceptance of feelings, development of coping skills, and resolution of stressors helps to create confidence that will allow one to overcome obstacles that will appear throughout life.”
Individual and group psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between thoughts, feelings and behaviors that accompany them is instrumental in identifying the cause of the symptoms. Once identified, treatment goals and interventions are directed to address the problem at its core and resolve the issues, including the symptoms causing distress. Look beyond the use of Marijuana for symptom reduction as it has the potential to lead to dependence. Consult with a Licensed Mental Health Professional or treatment center that can accurately assess and provide treatment solutions for issues surrounding both emotional and substance related disorders. Stay focused as solutions are not always immediately noticeable but eventually appear. Persistence in working through challenges can significantly improve one’s ability to manage future stressors and prevent dependence on substances such as Marijuana.
Dr. Grosso serves as Clinical Director for NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction in Newport Beach California.
The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself the invisible battles inside all of us, that’s where it’s at.
NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction is an emotionally focused treatment program that emphasizes the underlying mental health and emotional issues that precede and reinforce addiction in order to create lasting change.