By: Anna Gardner, Recovery Oriented Campus Center Coordinator, Vicki Libby, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist
We aren’t here to tell you if cannabis is good or bad, or debate its merits. We have noticed an increase
in marijuana use among students since its legalization in Maine. We think it is important for you to
understand what research has shown about its risks so you can make an informed decision about your
Some good evidence exists regarding the benefits of cannabis for chronic pain, muscle stiffness and
chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. There is less conclusive evidence for aiding sleep and
improving anxiety symptoms in conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is good evidence
for cannabis increasing your risk for social anxiety and even psychosis.
If you already struggle with anxiety or depression, cannabis can make symptoms worse. Heavy users are
more likely to report thoughts of suicide. If you use it before driving, it can increase your risk for a motor
vehicle accident. Heavy use can also lead to a substance use disorder.
People respond to cannabis in a variety of ways and can be more or less likely to develop problems
based on a variety of factors.
So how do you decide if your use is problematic?
Amounts: How much of the substance is being used during each episode of use? Has this
increased? There are huge variations in potency depending on whether you are smoking, vaping or
eating it. The more you use the more tolerant your body can become. Increased tolerance puts you at
greater risk for developing dependency.
Frequency: Think about why you are choosing to use and how often. If your use is increasing, is
marijuana the most effective way of addressing those needs? If your reason for use seems like a barrier
to making any changes, it may be useful to consider alternative ways of meeting those needs. For
example, if cannabis use is motivated by a desire to “relax”, “fall asleep” or “cope with feelings of
anxiety”, what other strategies could be used? Examples include exercise, meditation, sleep hygiene
routines, consultation with health and counseling.
Withdrawal: Cannabis, just like any other drug, can cause symptoms of withdrawal when
someone stopped or reduced. Signs of cannabis withdrawal include:
● Irritability, anger or aggression
● Nervousness or anxiety
● Sleep difficulty
● Decreased appetite or weight loss
● Depressed mood
● Stomach discomfort, shakiness, sweating, fever, chills, or headache
It’s important to note that the longer you have been using the more difficult it is to stop.
Impact on your daily life: Has use of the substance impacted normal routines, or made it
difficult to fulfill or succeed in regular responsibilities? Has it become harder to get up in the mornings
with continued or increased use? Have you noticed differences in ability to focus or concentrate? Have
you ever missed work or school due to use? Has use impacted relationships?
If you are concerned about your use, there are positive steps you can take.
While complete abstinence is the most effective method to “reset” your mind and body, it is not the
only way to diminish risk and make healthy changes. A decrease in amount or frequency can be
It is often helpful to achieve a goal with the support of a buddy. Do you have a friend who would be
willing to try the goal with you? If not it’s still helpful to let your friends/ family know about your goal, so
they can help support and encourage you.
Changing habits: If trying to make a change related to substance use, consider your routines related to
use: where, with, what, when, how, who, etc. By changing these variables, the unconscious urge/ desire
to use can be decreased.
The Recovery Oriented Campus Center: Top floor of Sullivan Portland usm.maine.edu/recovery-
University Health and Counseling: # 780-5411 or 780-4050 to schedule an appointment.
For further assistance in assessing your cannabis use try this free, quick, confidential and anonymous
screening usm.maine.edu/node/67960 called ScreenU. Available on both the ROCC and UHCS websites.
For more information about the health effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids, check out the National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017 text The Health Effects of Cannabis and
Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.
**It should be noted that while cannabis has been legalized in Maine, it is not so at the federal level.
USM is a Public University which receives government funding; cannabis is not permitted on campus,
and possession is a violation of the University Code of Conduct.