Many health experts warn patients off using cannabis to treat a mental health issue. But despite this, more and more scientific studies suggest cases where the intentioned and responsible use of cannabis may be effective.
With the availability of medical marijuana in Canada, here we examine what it has to offer in combating some of the more common mental health conditions.
Cannabis for Depression
Depression is a complex mood disorder that affects over 350 million people of all ages worldwide. It has a wide range of causes, including isolation, abuse, stress, underlying illnesses or even genetic predispositions.
Conventional treatments for depression include lifestyle changes and antidepressants that modulate serotonin levels in the brain. But it’s the associated side-effects that lead many to question whether medicinal cannabis is a better option.
For its part, cannabis stimulates the endocannabinoid system and can provide fast and effective relief from depressive symptoms for many. In fact, a 2006 study found that cannabis consumers have lower incidences of depression.
In the same study, researchers also found that low quantities of THC can increase levels of serotonin in the brain to provide temporary relief from symptoms. Interestingly, the same benefits were not present with higher doses of THC, where they actually were found to worsen symptoms.
While both anecdotal and scientific evidence sounds promising, science doesn’t have a full understanding of the mechanisms of action just yet. After all, there are a host of compounds in the cannabis plant that all act synergistically to supplement the endocannabinoid system and help stabilize bodily functions.
What we do know is that in small doses, cannabis does seem to illicit mood-boosting effects that can counteract the symptoms of depression, all without the side effects often associated with conventional treatments for depression.
Cannabis and Anxiety
Cannabis can be extremely effective at helping treat anxiety, where it regulates our nervous systems and promotes relaxation. However, this is only the case when we know what we’re doing. Cannabis is a complex plant with a myriad of compounds, and if we ingest it incorrectly, it can often exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
CBD is the primary compound of note when it comes to treating stress or anxiety. Most people report relief with strains that are high in CBD and low to moderate in THC. Anyone experiencing high levels of anxiety may risk exacerbating symptoms if they consume too much THC.
High-CBD strains like Harlequin, ACDC, and Cannatonic are three of the most popular strains used to treat anxiety. The high ratios of CBD to THC ensure that these strains help promote relaxation rather than promote the more psychoactive and cerebral effects associated with high quantities of THC.
Cannabis For Bipolar Disorder
The use of cannabis among bipolar patients is higher than average in Canada. Many of those using it to treat bipolar symptoms do so due to its ability to relieve the depressive symptoms associated with the condition, where it induces a euphoric sensation that lifts those suffering from bipolar disorder out of a depressive episode.
While depression is often associated with bipolar disorder, patients can also experience a mania that can become very intense in certain instances. The sedative effects of cannabis have been useful to many in bringing them back into a more harmonious state of being.
Much of the available science seems to correlate with subjective experience. One study found that those affected by bipolar disorder are less inclined to feel mentally impaired when using cannabis compared to those who go without. As far as side effects are concerned, patients reported no adverse effects on thinking and memory, and many also reported improved mood.
Cannabis and PTSD
PTSD develops in a small portion of individuals who experience extreme stressors. One of the most commonly afflicted groups are war veterans, who face unimaginably traumatic events in war zones, but PTSD can affect anyone who directly experiences a traumatic event.
Conventional treatments for PTSD include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or pharmaceutical intervention to help treat the depressive symptoms commonly associated with the condition. It’s a complex condition to treat, and in recent years psychedelic therapy has garnered much praise for its ability to successfully heal PTSD without the need for a life-long reliance on pharmaceuticals.
The science on whether cannabis helps treat PTSD is still inconclusive. But while the scientific community continues to debate the issue, cannabis is still widely used as a treatment among many for PTSD.
A 2019 study investigated how low endocannabinoid tone contributes to amygdala hyperactivation and the hyperarousal common to PTSD. Researchers postulated that an imbalance in endocannabinoid tone may be a factor in the development of PTSD. As a result, they claimed that cannabis may help by manipulating cannabinoid levels to counteract the hormone-mediated reduction of anandamide noted in certain brain regions in those afflicted with PTSD.
They also hypothesized that the potent anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis may help treat the condition. Those suffering from PTSD often experience “elevated inflammatory processes within the brain,” something which researchers believed cannabis can help with.
Eating Disorders and Cannabis
Eating disorders consist of a range of illnesses where people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviours. Such disorders are intricately connected to thoughts and emotions.
In some ways, cannabis may be one of the ideal ways to treat such conditions. After all, we’ve all experienced bouts of the munchies after consuming cannabis.
A 2011 study found that dysfunctional regulation and underlying imbalances within the endocannabinoid system are common in those with eating disorders. Researchers in the study stated that developing cannabinoid-derived treatments could prove to be a valuable treatment.
Another study offered more reasons why cannabis may help. Researchers noted that many patients with eating disorders lose the ability to feel pleasure when eating. But when they consume THC, it binds with the CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system and increases the pleasure they experience while eating by dialling up sensitivity to both smell and taste.
While some of the science does sound promising, the medical community isn’t fully on board just yet. Eating disorders are complex conditions that often have their roots deep in the emotional body, and time will tell just how beneficial cannabis is in treating the range of disorders.
Medical Marijuana in Canada
Mental health is complex, and our mental wellbeing is governed by many factors, including our environment, our upbringing, and even our ancestral lineage. No one treatment will magically cure us of our ails, but for certain conditions, the intentioned use of cannabis in therapeutic doses can undoubtedly help alleviate the symptoms without the debilitating side effects of some conventional treatments.
You should always consult a doctor if you’re going to actively treat a mental health condition with cannabis, but if you’d like to buy medical marijuana in Canada, then here at Low Price Bud we’ve got your needs sorted. Whether you’re looking for flowers, edibles, concentrates, or CBD products, you’ll find what you need over on our shop.