Marijuana and Violence: The Connection You Didn’t Know about

Albert Fontenot Marijuana, Teen Substance Abuse, Withdrawal Leave a Comment

People may think of hashish and marijuana as tranquilizers, but according to some studies, cannabis users may be more likely to act violently.”

~Ineborg Rossow, the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS)

Mounting research suggests what addiction professionals already know through experience – there is a link between chronic marijuana use, withdrawal, and violent aggression.

  • McLean Hospital’s Biological Psychiatry Laboratory reports that long-term, heavy users of marijuana exhibited more aggressive behavior during subsequent abstinence than infrequent users.
  • A Norwegian study revealed that adolescents who use cannabis report violence with greater frequency other youths who abstain from use.
  • In 2013, a Drug and Alcohol Dependence article reported that marijuana withdrawal is linked with 60% more relationship violence among individuals with a personal history of aggressive behavior.
  • A 2015 article in the Journal of Affective Disorders indicated that marijuana use tends to coincide with manic episodes. Of special relevance, individuals experiencing cannabis-induced mania often manifest anger and aggression. Furthermore, extreme manic symptoms include delusions and psychosis.

How Does Marijuana Cause Aggressive Behavior?

The precise mechanism by which marijuana use triggers violent behavior is as yet unclear. However, there are a number of theories. The prevailing notion is that heavy cannabis use causes several behavioral changes that can precipitate aggressive or violent outbursts:

“… all we know is those who increased their use of cannabis, also reported an increase in violence involvement,” continued Rossow.

Marijuana Withdrawal and Violence

Acute marijuana withdrawal after chronic and heavy usage triggers several symptoms that, in combination, could lead to increased aggression and, possibly, violence:

  • Depression – Individuals with depression are 3 times more likely to commit violent crimes.
  • Headache
  • Anxiety – Neurochemically linked to aggression.
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia – Considered a warning sign for domestic or intimate partner violence
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Irritability

What Does This All Mean?

Contrary to the prevailing – and mistaken – opinion that marijuana is a harmless substance that only makes users feel mellow and calm, the scientific evidence strongly suggests that regular marijuana use results in increased aggression and violence.

Significantly, the greatest impact appears to be among those individuals who use the drug during their adolescent and teenaged years, while their brains were not yet fully matured. The resultant brain changes have long-lasting effects.

Dr. Steven Marwaha of the University of Warwick Medical School and lead author of the study published in the JAD, says, “Cannabis is the most prevalent drug used by the under-18s, and during this critical period of development, services should be especially aware of and responsive to the problems that cannabis use can cause for adolescent populations.

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by Albert Fontenot