High Anxiety: Does marijuana help or worsen anxiety in college students?

The recent changes in laws legalizing recreational and medical marijuana use in various states across the United States has allowed college age students, ages 18 to 26, to easily access, purchase, and use marijuana. Furthermore, approximately 14.7% of adolescents ages 18 to 25 suffer from anxiety disorders. Still, not much is known about whether marijuana use and anxiety are interconnected. 

What do we know? 

So far, there have been recent studies looking into the relationship between marijuana and anxiety in college age students. The findings are summarized below:

  • Anxious marijuana users on college campuses were the most significant group of users (Troup et al.) 
  • Marijuana may negate feelings of anxiety even though they do suffer from anxiety (Wallis et al.)
  • Marijuana consumption might contribute to abnormal relationships between stress response and psychiatric symptoms (Cloak et al.).
  • 23 studies showed a positive correlation between having anxiety and greater marijuana use (Stiles-Shields et al.)

Still, more research is necessary to fully understand and clarify the relationship between marijuana consumption and anxiety disorders in college students

Call to Action: Research more campuses in states where marijuana is legal! 

By researching anxiety disorders and marijuana use in college students, the negative stigma around marijuana consumption as a coping mechanism for anxiety disorders will diminish and it may provide an outlet for college students who experience anxiety. Since both marijuana and mental health topics have become widely accepted and talked about on campuses, students are able to feel comfortable opening up about their experiences which allows more research to be conducted. The direction of the relationship is unclear but the research all agrees on one thing: that there is a correlation between anxiety and marijuana use, especially in young adults on college campuses. In conclusion, conducting more research on the interactions between marijuana use and anxiety disorders on college campuses, will systematically report on whether college students use marijuana to cope with anxiety or if marijuana use is causing their anxiety.