Marijuana and Aggression
This information was prepared by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre in Australia, and used with permission. Some information may not be accurate for U.S. readers.
Does smoking marijuana cause aggression?
In general, after using marijuana a person experiences a sedating effect, which makes the drug less likely to cause violence in users than other substances such as alcohol and stimulants (e.g., amphetamines and cocaine).
However, sometimes when marijuana is used it can cause fear, anxiety, panic or paranoia, which can result in an aggressive outburst. For most people, however, once the effects of the drug wear off, their behaviour gradually improves.
Studies show that violence can occur more often among people who use marijuana regularly, rather than those who use it occasionally or not at all. It is unclear why this is the case, but it may be because people with violent tendencies can also have a range of other psychosocial problems and are therefore more likely to use marijuana. marijuana is also part of the illegal drug market, which may increase the chances of violence occurring in some social interactions.
Research also shows that marijuana users who commit violent acts usually have a history of violence before they start using the drug.
In addition, when people are withdrawing from marijuana they can be irritable, which can lead to abusive or aggressive behaviour.
Why do people become abusive or aggressive?
Using marijuana can produce strange behaviour and reactions in people when they are intoxicated. These reactions can be similar to psychosis and paranoia and because of this, marijuana users may experience the following:
When people stop using marijuana they may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms including:
Experiencing any of these symptoms can make a person angry, which is an emotional response to feeling threatened or frustrated. Anger ranges from mild irritation to violent rage. Some people can express their anger in a controlled and constructive way while others lash out in an aggressive, uncontrolled way, either immediately or letting their feelings build up. This can lead to intimidating, violent or bullying behaviour, endangering them, other people and property.
How can you respond to threatening or violent behaviour?
The impact and the effects of violence on an individual can be profound and long-lasting, so doing all you can to prevent violence actually occurring is important.
The aim of calming someone down is not to prove them right or wrong, but to allow them to regain control of their behaviour without resorting to violence.
The best time to intervene is when a person is feeling anxious. Be supportive, empathic and neutral. Ask them what is wrong and try to calm them down. Move them to a quiet place and stay with them until the effects of marijuana wears off.
If a person's behaviour becomes aggressive, you could try the following tips to help calm them down:
After the effects of marijuana or marijuana withdrawal wear off, talk to your friend about what happened, how it affected you and those around you, and how this can be prevented in future.
How to help prevent aggressive and violent behaviour happening again
As a friend, you can do things that may reduce the likelihood of this happening to them again. These may include the following:
Factsheet information taken with permission from the NCPIC web site.
Coming soon: updates to this page with U.S. data and information.