CNN — Dr. Charles Raison, CNN’s mental health expert, addresses two questions from readers reacting to a piece on anxiety from Kat Kinsman, CNN Eatocracy managing editor, on her lifelong struggle with the condition. Look for Raison to address other questions in the future.
Q: Can using marijuana or having a drink or two be helpful for people with anxiety? What should they watch out for?
Dr. Raison: If one goes on any search engine looking for study results related to marijuana or alcohol and depression or anxiety, one will immediately see that most of the evidence tells a cautionary tale.
Many studies suggest that regular use of either marijuana or alcohol is associated with an increased risk for a variety of mental health problems, anxiety and depression among them. Increasing data suggests that regular marijuana use in adolescence may also be a risk factor for developing very serious psychotic disorders, especially schizophrenia.
In addition to promoting other disorders, alcohol is especially liable to abuse and dependence and has ruined innumerable people’s lives for millennia.
Far fewer studies have examined whether using these compounds in moderation might improve depression or anxiety.
But as Socrates noted almost 2,000 years ago, alcohol is both a blessing and a curse to mankind. Indeed, now we know that the regular modest use of alcohol actually promotes a number of health factors.
Similarly, it is increasingly clear that many of the chemicals within marijuana hold great promise for the treatment of physical pain. The endocannabinoid system in the brain — which is a primary target for marijuana — has profound effects on how people think and feel.