"Calm, mellow, chill"—those are words many would use to describe the feelings brought on by recreational marijuana use. But some users report experiencing irritability, a short temper, and even rage after smoking weed or consuming edibles.
These feelings can cause some people to lash out at others, sometimes escalating to violence. Anger associated with cannabis use can occur shortly after intake or present as a symptom of marijuana withdrawal. If you have been experiencing symptoms like this, you are not alone.
Can Marijuana Make You More Prone To Anger?
Scott Krakower, DO, Unit Chief of Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, NY, tells WebMD Connect to Care that he has observed anger in some marijuana users, especially those using high-potency cannabis preparations. “Cannabis use can be linked to anger, rage, and aggression in certain individuals,” says Krakower. “It is proposed that alterations in the endocannabinoid system may be the cause of these symptoms."
Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and the Pennsylvania State University found a correlation between marijuana use and feelings of anger based on a sample of 43 recreational users. The 2015 study asked participants to journal angry feelings and outbursts, showing a 20% increase in hostility on days when subjects used cannabis.
The authors linked chronic marijuana use to changes in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) region of the brain, which helps to regulate emotional control and reactions to others’ behavior. These changes could lead to a “short fuse” and bursts of anger.
A 2013 study from the University of Buffalo linked the same brain region to aggressive behaviors during marijuana withdrawal in participants with a history of violence. According to Tavis Glassman, Ph.D., Population Health Professor at The University of Toledo, anger and irritability are common after abruptly stopping cannabis.
“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,” Glassman tells WebMD Connect to Care. “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’."
Anger as a side effect of cannabis may be more of a concern with individuals with preexisting mood conditions, such as bipolar disorder, and in people with a specific genetic makeup. In a multi-team DNA study of 118 men, individuals with mutations in the cannabinoid receptor type 1 scored higher on an anger scale after smoking marijuana.
“There may be certain traits which predispose specific individuals to aggression (prior to engaging in any substance use),” Krakower says. “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.”
Get Help Now
Working with your healthcare provider or therapist can be a big help if you have a problem with anger you think may be tied to pot use or medical marijuana. They may recommend lifestyle changes, anger management classes, or individual or group therapy.
If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.