Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
It’s possible that marijuana may cause anger issues when consumed in high doses or over long periods of time.
Although marijuana is often associated with a soothing and mellowing effect, some reports suggest that it may cause increased violent behavior in some users. The exact interactions are not well known, but researchers speculate that it may be due to various reasons, such as withdrawal or chronic marijuana use at an early age.
The components of the cannabis itself are also important to note as those strains higher in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are associated with a higher risk of causing paranoia or anxiety, often associated with aggression.
This article covers the possible link between marijuana and anger, why it happens, and what to do about it.
How Marijuana Affects Your mood
Marijuana contains a cannabinoid known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Alongside other cannabinoids, this compound interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of transmitters that play various roles in our bodies, including regulating our mood.
Within our ECS, many receptors are mapped across the body and respond to these cannabinoids. More specifically, CB1 receptors are thought to have a role in regulating anxiety and mood states.
CB1 receptors are found in high densities within brain regions — such as the amygdala, cortex, and hippocampus — and help regulate your emotions. Within the body, THC acts as an agonist to the CB1 receptor, causing it to activate.
Since THC binds well to CB1 receptors, it creates psychoactive effects such as mood and motor control changes. The science beyond this point is heavily debated as the effects of cannabis use differ significantly from person to person.
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Users often report feeling “high” when using marijuana. THC stimulates pleasure areas in the brain that respond to things like sex and food. As a response, dopamine, commonly known as our “feel good” chemical, is released, which makes you feel relaxed and happy. This is often seen in lower doses, while higher doses may have the opposite effect.
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Effects on Thinking
Along with feelings of euphoria, marijuana can cause distorted thinking, heightened senses, increased risky behaviors, and impaired motor skills. This depends on how potent your cannabis is, your tolerance level, and your method of use.
While many people, including Steve Jobs, argue that cannabis helps creativity, recent studies show it may impair our divergent thinking in high doses.
One study comparing creativity in low potency, high potency, and placebo groups found that marijuana with low potency did not affect a participant’s creativity. In contrast, participants in the high potency group had impaired performance. This suggests that cannabis may negatively affect our creativity in high doses, but more research in this area is needed to be sure.
Mental Health Conditions
Cannabis in lower doses may reduce anxiety levels. For this reason, many people with anxiety disorders report using marijuana to help with their symptoms. As doses increase, however, studies suggest that cannabis may raise anxiety levels, which can be devastating for individuals already managing an anxiety disorder.
Given its psychoactive effects, THC may have some link with the onset of psychotic disorders and other mental health issues. The findings of one multicenter case-control study found that the odds of developing a psychotic disorder were 3.2 times higher in participants who were daily users compared to people who had never used marijuana. This may indicate that chronic users are at higher risk of developing poor mental health outcomes, but more research is needed.
Another review found that individuals with a mental illness were more likely to self-medicate using cannabis, further polarizing the arguments for and against its usage.
Can Marijuana Make You Angry?
Based on what we know, the best answer to whether cannabis use causes anger issues is “maybe and maybe not.” As discussed, marijuana use can affect one’s mood in various ways. Usually, cannabis is associated with euphoria, but some people can experience adverse effects such as anxiety and paranoia, especially when they use cannabis in high doses.
Other factors that we need further research on are whether marijuana plays a role in psychosis, and what role chronic use plays in feelings of anger or irritability.
Cannabis is involved in roughly 50% of psychosis, schizophreniform psychosis, and schizophrenia cases. Likewise, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Cannabis Research Report, individuals smoking high potency marijuana daily may be five times more likely to develop psychosis than their non-smoking counterparts. The age at first use, the potency, and genetic variability have all been shown to contribute to this effect.
But it’s important to note that the causative factor is often unclear as studies have found that teens with a predisposition to developing a psychotic disorder may be more likely to use cannabis, possibly as a form of self-medication.
A report published in 2017 suggested that violent behavior in cannabis users may be associated with the onset of psychosis, as well as delusions that the individual is under attack.
The report highlights a case of an individual with marijuana-induced psychosis who believed killing patients at a care facility would benefit society. While anecdotal, meaning the information can’t be generalized to describe an overall population, these findings suggest that more research on the possible link between marijuana and psychosis is needed.
Compared with historical attitudes, fewer teens today believe that regular cannabis use is harmful, and daily use increased from 1.5% to almost 4% among U.S. citizens from 2002 to 2019, according to one report published in 2021.
While speculative, the onset of psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, after chronic marijuana use may explain symptoms such as aggression and irritability in rare marijuana user cases.
Studies show that chronic marijuana use may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders. While this scenario has played out in many rare cases, more research is needed to determine whether it is a cause-and-effect relationship.
Commonly known as “cannabis withdrawal syndrome,” marijuana withdrawal is experienced by approximately 47% of chronic users trying to quit. The actual severity and length of symptoms are partly related to the frequency and amount of marijuana that the person uses. Chronic users with potent doses or frequent usage often have a harder time with withdrawal symptoms.
Factors associated with an increased risk of developing cannabis withdrawal syndrome include clinical settings and concurrent use of tobacco or other substances. Studies suggest that other factors such as gender, genetics, and environment also impact the severity of withdrawal.
Common side effects of withdrawal include the following:
- Feelings of irritability, anger, or aggressiveness
- Sensations of extreme nervousness or anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased appetite
- Onset of depressive feelings
- Physical symptoms such as fevers, chills, sweating, headache, and abdominal pain
For chronic users experiencing marijuana withdrawal, symptoms appear within a week after quitting and peak within 10 days. The symptoms slowly decline in severity within 10-20 days but quickly resolve if the individual begins smoking again.
Withdrawal from any mind-altering substance, including marijuana, always leaves the potential for individuals to be more prone to accidents, exhibit poor judgment, and even develop suicidal thoughts due to the depression and distress that can occur during the withdrawal period. Therefore, chronic marijuana users seeking to quit should always consult their doctor or do so under the supervision of a mental health professional.
Best Cannabis Strains for Anger Management
Part of the appeal of cannabis is its mellowing and calming effects, though this differs depending on the strain. Some strains have more calming effects and may be used for managing anger issues, while others may aggravate negative symptoms, depending on the dosage. Here are some of the best strains for calming anger:
Cannatonic is a CBD-rich variety of cannabis made by crossing MK Ultra and G13 Haze. Cannatonic is one of the strains that kicked off the CBD revolution. Cannatonic can produce some THC (up to 6%) but plenty more CBD, measuring between 6% and 18%.
This means that Cannatonic can have a CBD:THC ratio of anything between 1:1 and 3:1. This can make Cannatonic helpful in managing anxiety and depression, reducing the chances of a THC-induced panic attack.
Blue Dream contains a moderate level of THC and a broad terpene profile. It has well-balanced effects, is often described as a flavorful cultivar when inhaled, and has been noted for its ability to reduce stress. All these factors mean that Blue Dream could be useful for reducing irritability.
Harlequin contains a CBD:THC ratio of approximately 5:2, and both cannabinoids can help one relax, potentially reducing stress and anger. The unique CBD:THC ratio and the presence of anti-inflammatory terpenes like pinene, beta-caryophyllene, and myrcene can help relieve chronic pain, thus helping to alleviate irritability.
Blackberry Kush (BBK)
Blackberry Kush is a hybrid cultivar produced by crossing Afghani with Blackberry. BBK is known for its sweet, berry, hashy, peppery flavor profile and relaxing, appetite-inducing, and sleepy effects. THC levels tend to stay under 20%, making BBK a great choice for managing chronic pain, stress, and insomnia, all of which can lead to irritability.
Lemon Pie is a cultivar created by Leafs by Snoop. It has a spicy, flowery, citrus, and diesel flavor and packs up to 22% THC. Limonene is a prominent terpene in this variety of cannabis, as is myrcene. Lemon Pie has uplifting and relaxing effects that could make it helpful in managing stress, depression, fatigue, and PTSD.
Check out our article on the best strains for irritability to learn more about the types of cannabis that may help manage irritability and anger. Please note that no scientific evidence suggests that the types of cannabis mentioned in this or any other article can help reduce anger or irritability. More research needs to be done to find this out.
The Bottom Line
While marijuana is becoming increasingly popular in the clinical setting, some studies indicate that it may impact our anger response. For the most part, the negative effects of marijuana are often associated with higher doses, chronic usage, and withdrawal.
Other factors such as the starting age of users, gender, and environmental factors may also play a role. However, cannabis can help some people mitigate anxiety, depression, stress, and intermittent explosive disorder (IED) when dosed appropriately.
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