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Marijuana And Mental Illness

It doesn’t matter if it’s real or fake, it’s confirmed: pot kills. (And once again, it’s in the news).

That’s still my answer to the client who questioned me this past weekend when I told him the dangers of smoking pot.

“What about medical marijuana?” he asked. Well, the marijuana-like drug, marinol is proven to work and it does not impair cognition. It also doesn’t have the same side-effects as smoking pot. (Medical cases where marijuana is said to be the only option should be evaluated on an individual basis).

Many Americans consider pot a “light drug,” akin to alcohol and those who smoke it love to argue that alcohol is worse for you. There are plenty, though, who say otherwise.

Those in 12-step programs or otherwise in recovery from addiction of any kind, addiction counselors and treatment program directors, psychiatrists, and more will all tell it like it is: marijuana is a powerful drug that has serious side effects and has more than double the carcinogenic hydrocarbons of tobacco smoke. Because it is held in the lungs longer, it may even be more toxic to the lungs. But even if you eat it and don’t smoke it, it causes structural and functional changes in the brain.  

Also, there is a correlation between mental illness, including psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders, and marijuana use.

(Yeah, right, you’re thinking. But you said, “pot kills”). Yes, it does. Sometimes, nearly immediately after use. Studies show that people who smoke marijuana are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal car crash.

And, as anyone who’s ever worked in the field of addictions will tell you, pot is a gateway drug leading to harder drug use in a significant percentage of users, no matter what the naysayers say.

Also, it’s addictive. Marijuana smokers do become dependent on the drug. Sure, there’s research showing this, but we also know because many who enter addiction treatment programs of their own volition having been telling us this for years.

What about those who are mandated to treatment (many have been caught selling, smoking, or driving while high)? When they arrive, they insist, over and over again, that pot isn’t addictive, it doesn’t harm anyone and “the system” is out to get them.

Then they get to hear the other side. They hear personal stories from former addicts. They hear, in family therapy, heartfelt, tearful pleas from family members. They hear personal stories from hard drug users who started by using pot, and how they sought a more powerful high. They hear tales of mental illness, physical illness, broken relationships.

If you smoke pot, ask yourself, “Why do people who sell you marijuana do it?”

They’re doing it for the money.

What’s your reason?

Photo by talented Dutch Photographer, Gerhard Taatgen, Jr.

Marijuana And Mental Illness

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2012). Marijuana And Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2018, from


Last updated: 21 Mar 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Mar 2012
Published on All rights reserved.