Self Medicating with Cannabis

Woman thinking about naxolene and opioid addiction

As more and more states are considering or are already in the process of legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, it is likely that an increasing number of individuals will attempt to start self medicating with pot. One study has shown that self-medication through cannabis use was nearly 4% higher in states that had legalized medical marijuana. [1]

Cannabis is derived from the cannabis plant and is used in three primary forms: marijuana, hashish, and hash oil. Tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in cannabis that creates a feeling of being high.

Self-medication refers to the act of using cannabis through smoking or eating, to provide relief for depression, anxiety, chronic pain, or other discomforts. There is also a high correlation between substance abuse and mental illness and the danger of triggering psychosis. [2]

While there can be a helpful and temporary benefit experience through the use of cannabis to treat anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, because of the dangers involved with any unsupervised drug use, the intake of marijuana should be monitored by a medical professional.

The use of marijuana to treat your pain can be likened to that of taking a loan with high interest; it meets an immediate need, but you will likely be paying with consequences for a long time after the effects wear off. Some of the potential long-term costs include:

Self Medicating with Pot and Developing Dependence

Because of the addictive nature of marijuana, you may be exchanging one problem for another. Your anxiety or depression may be relieved in the short-term, but you develop a substance abuse problem.

Vulnerability to Psychosis

lady sitting on bench near a lake self medicating with potDrugs and alcohol can sometimes result in psychosis—a frightening experience of hearing voices, seeing people or objects, or believing delusional thoughts. Research suggests that those who first have a drug-induced psychosis are at a higher risk of developing future psychosis. [4]


Tolerance is the experience of needing more and more of a substance to get the same effect. This increasing need can result in a feeling of discouragement and desperation.

With the legalization of cannabis, research is underway to understand better how we might be able to harness the beneficial aspects of marijuana and THC, but it is still the early days. If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or chronic pain, don’t begin self medicating with pot but consult a medical or mental health professional to learn alternative coping methods or use marijuana under the supervision of someone who can help you.


[1] Sarvet, A. L., Wall, M. M., Keyes, K. M., Olfson, M., Cerdá, M., & Hasin, D. S. (2018, May 1). Self-medication of mood and anxiety disorders with marijuana: Higher in states with medical marijuana laws. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from

[2] Barkus, E. (2007, January 1). The Link Between Psychotic Disorders and Substance Use. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from

[3] Starzer MSK, Nordentoft M, Hjorthøj C: Rates and predictors of conversion to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder following substance-induced psychosis. Am J Psychiatry 2018; 175:343–350

[4] Bujara, S. (2019, January 28). Substance Abuse and Primary Psychosis: A Closer Look. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from

About the Author:

Travis StewartTravis Stewart, LPC has been mentoring others since 1992 and became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 2005. His counseling approach is relational and creative, helping people understand their story while also building hope for the future. Travis has experience with a wide variety of issues which might lead people to seek out professional counseling help. This includes a special interest in helping those with compulsive and addictive behaviors such as internet and screen addiction, eating disorders, anxiety, and perfectionism. Specifically, he has worked with eating disorders since 2003 and has learned from many of the field’s leading experts. He has worked with hundreds of individuals facing life-threatening eating disorders in all levels of treatment. Travis’ website is

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

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Reviewed and Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 2, 2020
Published March 2, 2020, on

About Baxter Ekern

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