Are Smokers & Users of Marijuana More At Risk to Depression and Anxiety?

    According to a recent study, those who use marijuana and cigarettes are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses including sadness and anxiety.


    Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found that compared to persons who just used tobacco or people who used neither substance, people who use both substances are more likely to experience anxiety and despair.

    The researchers stated that tobacco and cannabis are two of the most commonly used substances worldwide, and that consumption has increased as cannabis use has been more widely accepted.

    How do marijuana and tobacco consumption impact mental health?

    53,843 American people who took part in online questionnaires as part of the COVID-19 Citizens Science Study, which collected data from 2020 to 2022, had their mental health and substance use data examined by the team.

    According to the findings, less than 2% of participants reported using both cigarettes and cannabis, whereas over 7% reported using both.

    In the group using both, 26% of participants reported having anxiety and 28% reported having depression.

    10% and 11%, respectively, of those who took neither substance reported having anxiety or depression.

    According to the study, co-users were almost twice as likely to experience these mental health conditions than non-users.

    When compared to smoking just, co-usage and cannabis use were both linked to an increased risk of anxiety.


    The study’s authors said that causation cannot be established. They did, however, draw the conclusion that combining the use of tobacco and cannabis is linked to poor mental health, and they made the suggestion that combining programs for quitting both substances with those for mental health assistance may help address the issue.

    The researchers stated in a press release that “using tobacco and cannabis is linked to diminished mental well-being.”

    Anxiety, depression, and substance use may occur together.

    Although they noted that historically the association between smoking and bad mental health has been more about anxiety than depression, mental health specialists told Healthline that they were not shocked by the relationship between using both drugs and poor mental health.

    They also pointed out that a significant portion of the data was gathered during the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced additional pressures that might have exacerbated depressive and anxiety disorders as well as substance abuse.

    Vice President and medical director of psychiatry for Zinnia Health, a national provider of behavioral health care, is Dr. David Hu.

    According to Hu, the study supports prior findings from other studies and clinical observations.


    “The co-occurrence of substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety are very high,” Hu said. “However, causality is unclear. Smoking cigarettes or using marijuana may be more common among those who suffer from depression as a kind of self-medication.

    Hu noted that after the effects of the medications wear off, a person’s mood sometimes seems to get worse. People frequently claim that they require marijuana or tobacco to unwind and reduce tension, he claimed.

    Hu said that the nervousness might truly be seeking the drug. “It could be a chicken-or-the-egg situation.”

    Is consuming drugs a kind of self-harm?

    According to Avigail Lev, founder and director of Bay Area CBT Center in Oakland, California, persons who smoke are more prone to experience anxiety, depression, or both, therefore the study’s findings make sense.

    Lev suggested that this might be the case because smokers might be less concerned about their health, which might be a sign of parasuicidal or passive suicidal tendencies.

    One explanation could be that both nicotine and cannabis can control the neurological system and mood, which heightens some enjoyable experiences. Therefore, smokers may already be in a worse state of misery than the ordinary person.

    Lev suggested that substance abuse could be a sort of self-harm, in which people purposefully harm themselves without having any intention of killing themselves.

    Lev continued, “Smoking can also be seen as passive suicidal behavior.”

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    “Taking part in the act despite being aware of its negative effects may show a lack of concern for one’s own wellbeing. Smoking’s ability to temporarily relieve stress or mental suffering can be compared to other activities in which people look for quick fixes to their own problems.

    Some people take drugs as a kind of self-medication.

    According to Dr. Ryan Sultan, a psychiatrist and professor at Columbia University in New York, smoking can first be calming.

    However, the longer someone smokes, the more they depend on the drug, which increases the risk of mental health problems.

    According to Sultan, one explanation for the association could be that people who are anxious or depressed are more inclined to use drugs like cigarettes or cannabis as a form of self-medication. “While these drugs may offer short-term relief, they may, over time, make the underlying problems worse.”


    Sultan added, “I have a patient named Sarah who issues with social anxiety.

    She might smoke marijuana before social gatherings to relax. She discovered that her symptoms worsened when she was not taking the drug, though, as she grew more dependent on it to control her anxiety.

    “It’s important to approach the findings of the study with a nuanced understanding,” he continued.

    “While there is a link between smoking cigarettes and using cannabis and having more anxiety and despair, the relationship is complicated. Self-medication, the brain’s adaptability to regular drug use, and individual variances are all contributing factors.

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