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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I help my cousin who is addicted to marijuana?

    Hi, my cousin who is turning 30 next month has been smoking marijuana since she was 18. She smokes it everyday morning, noon and night. She went through a period of about 2 years where she wasn't able to smoke it because she moved away and didn't really have any friends or people she could get it off. During this time when she couldn't use it very often, she became severely depressed, unhygienic , suffered from anxiety so bad that she would vomit unintentionally daily and also became extremely overweight.

    She has moved home and is living with her parents for the past 8 months. She is back to smoking it daily and heavily. The thing is she is far less depressed, doesn't have the anxiety anymore and her weight has decreased dramatically. She is convinced her life is better with marijuana and has also convinced her parents of this. What are the long term effects? She also gets very defensive and angry if you approach the subject and says you are just judgmental . I hate that she does it.
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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    Heavy marijuana usage can be addictive (in the pharmacological sense), especially amongst people who start in their teens - the current estimate is that between 25 and 50% of such smokers will be addicted.

    What are the long term effects?"
    There is evidence that heavy usage is linked to development of schizophrenia (or other psychotic episodes).

    It sounds to me that you have a complex relationship with your cousin. Perhaps you could suggest to her (I realise this may not be easy) that she talks with a mental health professional with experience in working with clients who have substance abuse issues.

  • 1


    Mary-Anne Wallace

    Counselling Psychologist, Psychologist

    Working with individuals and couples including FIFOI possess a Masters degree and am registered with the Psychology Board of Australia with endorsement in the area … View Profile

    Unfortunately long term cannabis use can do significant harm as it can cause memory loss and take away a persons motivation and then of course there is the usual health problems associated with smoking. It sounds like your cousin is using the cannabis to self medicate and well done to you for trying to help. I agree with the others, try to calmly and respectfully talk to her about your concerns and let her know you are willing to help when she is ready. Meanwhile you could speak to an addictions counsellor and get some tips on how best to deal with the situation.

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    I concur with the previous responses. What I would like to add is that smoking cannabis can have short benefits re: reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, the long term affects studies have shown only exacerbate the very thing your cousin is trying to self medicate with. Unfortunately substances have the effect of corking feelings so to speak, so in the long run feelings of depression and anxiety can get worse. In addition, your cousin's tolerance to cannabis will increase over time which usually means smoking more to get the same effect.
    As others have suggested you have to tread carefully as your cousin will get defensive when someone attempts to threaten her safety – in this case their mental health. Because from her perspective its working.
    If she does make the decision to stop your cousin may need to see her GP about going on a anti-depressant to help WITH her depression. Also counselling/therapy support to look at alternate strategies to help cope with her anxiety would also be beneficial.
    I suggest that giving her some literature on the impact of cannabis on mental health as a possible avenue to engage your cousin. Talking to her parents and giving them information might also help.
    I wish you all the best with this difficult situation.  


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