Pharmaceuticals, marijuana can help students cope in college

Zane Watson

College is a time when stress-inducing tasks can take a toll on students’ mental health. When used properly, drugs can help tackle the associated anxiety and depression.

The neurons in the amygdala, thalamus and hippocampus play a large role in how depression and anxiety affect emotions. Scientists claim that chemical imbalance in these areas of the brain lead to increased depression. Drugs can change the way these chemical imbalances react with brain function and emotions.

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According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, medication and therapy have been successful in combating anxiety and depression.

Director of Poudre Infusion Therapy Rebecca Nemechek said pharmaceuticals work by blocking the natural processes of the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a common type of drug used to fight anxiety and depression, will decrease the level of serotonin in the user.

However, because of side effects associated with the SSRIs, patients may experience increased mental health risk.

Nemechek offered other methods to cope. These include paying attention to your body, getting adequate sleep, eating well and a consistently exercising.

“Simply talking about why you’re anxious can help a student get an idea on where your feelings are coming from,” Nemechek said. “Older students from the same major or counselors at the Student Health Center can really help too.”

Joseph Jobes, a computer programming student at Front Range Community College, has taken antidepressants for a large portion of his life.

“The first month of ever taking antidepressants really increased my anxiety, but it evened out after a while,” Jobes said. “Then they just kinda stopped working.”

“Antidepressants just aren’t my thing,” Jobes said. “They are hit or miss and I think it really depends on the person. I’m beginning to like the use of marijuana to help cope.”

While Colorado’s qualifying medical conditions for the use of medical marijuana do not include anxiety and depression, patients still use the product to relieve these symptoms.

Former CSU computer science major Evelynn Ochoa is a medical card holder. Prescribed medical marijuana for chronic back pain, she also consumes marijuana to keep a calm demeanor in class and public places.

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“I couldn’t go to class without getting too anxious,” Ochoa said. “I have seen the negative effects (prescriptions) have, which is why I wanted to stay away from pharmaceuticals.”

Understanding proper dosages and chemistry behind the properties of any drug, including marijuana, helps properly relieve anxiety and depression. For marijuana, plant variety contributes to this success.

“I think we need more research in weed, but there is still potential in its use,” Jobes said. “We should research how the receptors work with each chemical, like CBD (cannabidiol) or CBN (cannabinol), or even THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).”

Consumers say high CBD levels help reduce the levels of marijuana-induced anxiety from high concentrations of THC.

“When you have (marijuana), it’s quite easy to start over using it, which would trigger more anxiety after some time,” Ochoa said.

Although pharmaceuticals and consumption of marijuana can be used to treat depression, overall it is important for the individual to find their own method for coping.

“We are too hung up on the SSRIs and other drugs,” Jobes said. “Sleep, exercise and supplement with vitamins and nutrients is the tried and true method for overcoming these symptoms.”

Collegian Green Beat Reporter Zane Watson can be reached news@collegian.com or on twitter @zanerwatson.