Can cannabis make you aggressive? This is a question that appears to be gaining an increasing amount of attention and is being used as an argument against cannabis use. Many consumers feel chilled or mellow after having consumed cannabis, but there are some anecdotal reports of consumers feeling aggressive, angry, or irritable.
Are these feelings the result of actually having consumed cannabis or as a result of marijuana withdrawal? Obviously, a substance that stirs-up aggression in consumers needs to be investigated. So, let’s dive into what we know about the relationship between cannabis and aggression.
According to One Study High THC Percentage Could Be Linked to Aggressive Behavior
Research by Normal Miller et al argues that those that are pro-cannabis legalization “downplay the drug’s negative effects.” In their research, the team presents 14 cases of violence from chronic cannabis consumers and they found recurring instances of cannabis-induced paranoia as well as cannabis-induced psychosis. The team highlights the fact that modern-day cannabis is “far more potent in THC concentrations, the psychoactive component.”
When there is a significantly potent or high quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), consumers may experience more adverse effects. However, the fact that a high THC percentage continues to be sought after by recreational consumers means that its effects still need to be detailed. In terms of cannabis and aggression, THC increases the risk of consumer paranoia and psychosis, both of which may contribute to aggression. The researchers explain that “paranoid behavior increases the risk of paranoid behaviors and predictability associated with aggressive and violent behaviors.”
The researchers claim that cannabis causes violent behavior, or aggressiveness, through inducing paranoia, especially when consumers are purchasing very potent products. They go on to explain that the role of cannabis and aggression is “assigned to its high association” and that “high potency marijuana is a predictable and percentage cause of tragic violent consequences.”
Therefore, this study suggests that cannabis can make an individual display aggressive behavior when the potency is high enough to induce paranoia and psychosis. This is basically reaffirming the fact that high-potency THC products are not for everyone and that consuming such potent products may come with a price.
Cannabis and Aggression: Can Withdrawal From Marijuana Cause Aggression?
Another study, conducted by Laura Dellazizzo et al, explains that the effects of cannabis consumption in terms of harm-to-others has unfortunately been “largely overlooked.” While the researchers did indicate an association between cannabis and aggression, they explain that the “mechanisms associating cannabis use and violence remain to be clearly resolved.”
More specifically, the researchers found that cannabis was moderately associated with physical violence in youth and emerging adults. It also has a small-moderate association with intimate partner aggression, as well as a moderate association with violence in populations with severe mental disorders.
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When summarizing their findings, the researchers explain that there is evidence to support the fact that cannabis does contribute to aggression, but that there is also evidence to support that cannabis decreases aggressive tendencies. Before any definitive conclusions can be made, the mechanisms behind each of these findings need further investigation.
The researchers state that “not only is any type of use of cannabis associated with violence, but preliminary data has highlighted a potential dose-response relationship with larger effects in more frequent users.” This suggests that the potency, quantity and frequency of product being consumed contributes to whether, or not and to what extent, cannabis causes aggression.
Cannabis and Aggression: Withdrawal, Predisposed Traits, and Potency
Marta Manning from WebMD reported on Dr. Scott Krakower who has observed angry cannabis consumers and who is the Unit Chief of Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital. Dr. Krakower stated that “cannabis can be linked to anger, rage and aggression in certain individuals,” and that “it is proposed that alterations in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be the cause of these symptoms.” However, research is needed to confirm this hypothesis. Dr. Krakower also explains that high potency products were also connected to the individuals he observed who presented with cannabis induced-aggression.
Manning suggests another potential cause for the association between cannabis and aggression based on research from Yale University School of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University. This research reportedly found a correlation “between marijuana use and feelings of anger” due to “changes in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) region of the brain, which helps to regulate emotional control and reactions to others’ behavior.” Apparently, these changes can lead to “a short fuse and bursts of anger.”
Dr. Travis Glassman tells WebMD that “When chronic marijuana users go without the drug THC for a specified time — which differs by the individual for a myriad of reasons — they are likely to feel irritable, which may explain anger management issues,” and that “the potency and the frequency of ingestion results in increased tolerance over time, whereby the user needs more of the drug to get high. If the user ingests a weaker strain of marijuana, they may feel ‘off’.”
This basically suggests that those who have come to depend on cannabis may turn aggressive when they are unable to consume the substance, but there is less research available to support this claim than that of the potency-related cannabis-induced aggression.
More Research Needed to Prove Correlation Between Cannabis and Aggression
“There may be certain traits which predispose specific individuals to aggression (prior to engaging in any substance use). If there is a history (or family history) of mood disorder or psychosis, they should be extra cautious before trying marijuana. Patients should make sure to voice any concerns to their practitioners and review any risks or benefits carefully.”- Dr. Krakower
Since there is no definitive answer on what causes the correlation between cannabis and aggression, consumers need to know that there is a possible risk of cannabis causing aggression. For now, the safest and wisest course of action would be to avoid consuming cannabis products with a high potency of THC, and if possible, avoid frequent use.
If you know that you have a predisposition toward aggression, be sure to mention this with your physician when discussing cannabis consumption. Perhaps all your concern will be for nothing since cannabis affects us all differently—but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
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