Many addictive mind-altering drugs may cause depression, and often this occurs as euphoriant effects are subsiding. In fact, many of the serious sequella of addictive drugs are due to withdrawal effects. A drug may initially produce an initial "high" effect but this is generally followed by a "low". Repetitive use at the same level may cause a decrease in the "high" with a resultant increase in the depression. This is one reason addicts tend to use larger and larger quantities of drugs and often move on to other stronger drugs.
In Marijuana: Drugs of Abuse, Volume I, Mark S. Gold, MD, writes "individuals may use marijuana in the mistaken belief that it will help them sleep or that it will relieve their depression, but in reality marijuana has been shown to cause insomnia and depression" (Plenum Medical Book Company, New York and London, 1989, p. 87). He also states, "marijuana dependency may masquerade as a wide variety of complaints. Most of them are non-specific-- sleeplessness, depression that may range from mild to severe, ..." (p. 96). He notes that "patients often cite depression as a reason for their marijuana use, without realizing that depression is a common consequence of marijuana use.... Marijuana addicts...appear to use the drug in spite of worsening depression, even though they often report a dysphoric response to marijuana inhalation or ingestion" (p. 100). Dr. Gold reports, "Dependence may result in a number of withdrawal symptoms after cessation of marijuana use, including anxiety, depression, sleep and appetite disturbances, irritability, tremors, diaphoresis, nausea, muscle convulsions, and restlessness" (p.103).
In "Suicide Attempts Among Adolescent Drug Users" (American Journal of Diseases of Children 114:310-314, 1990) by Alan L. Berman, PhD, and Richard H. Schwartz, MD), one Virginia study found that "substance-abusers were three times as likely as a normative population of non-drug-using age- and sex-matched peers to make a suicide attempt....Both the wish to hurt oneself and actual suicide attempts were found to increase significantly after the initiation of substance use". The authors note that other studies showed that "among adolescents who attempt suicide, those who use illicit drugs outnumber controls by 8 to 1 to 10 to 1." They state "It is generally agreed that there is a progressive increase in depressed mood from abstainer to substance user and a corresponding increase in suicide attempts.." (p. 310). As the most commonly used illegal drug in the USA, marijuana is thus a major cause of depression and also of suicide. Unfortunately, the general public is unaware of the many harmful effects of marijuana, and the pro-legalization lobby is even falsely promoting marijuana as a safe medicine for insomnia and depression.
Janet D. Lapey, MD. President Drug Watch International, Executive Director
Concerned Citizens for Drug Prevention, Inc.