Can Cannabis Help with Mental Health?

Many '“potheads” will tell you cannabis has helped them alleviate the onslaught of symptoms brought upon by mental illness. Yet, others will claim delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) only bring them further complications, such as fear and stress.

So, which claim is more accurate? Can marijuana really help you with mental health?

It depends on a number of factors pertaining to you. These include:

  • Your environment

  • Your personality/genetics

  • Your physicality

Cannabis affects everyone differently. Though our genetics play a major role, we’re also influenced by our life experiences and what’s around us. It’s given that if we get high in a moment where responsibility is necessary (such as at work or school), we might be prone to anxiety. Yet, if we were to take a toke on a Friday night when we’re just trying to relax and enjoy ourselves, there’s a good chance we’ll be feeling pretty good.

Our moods and perceptions hold a large influence over our chemical balance and often work on our brains on a moment to moment basis. Since mental health heavily influences our mood and perceptions, it’s only natural cannabis will react to this.

This article looks into a variety of mental illnesses and details exactly how cannabis plays a role.

Anxiety

As a cannabis journalist who’s suffered from anxiety, I often get asked how cannabis affects me personally. The truth is, it has alleviated many of my anxiety symptoms and, during different highs, worsened them.

Though this might seem illogical, research has found this phenomenon to make sense.

Within our brains is a little receptor known as the amygdala. It’s responsible for a number of our emotions, including fear. The chemical compound from cannabis that gets you high, THC, naturally attaches itself to the amygdala - enhancing the emotions it controls.

So, if I’m already feeling alright, THC attaching to my amygdala is going to make me feel even more alright. But if I’m feeling anxious as it is, weed will only make me feel more paranoid.

If you’re curious as to whether or not weed will help you with your anxiety disorder, you’re going to have to just give it a go. Take a few tokes and see how you feel. If you enjoy it, try it again. If not, at least you now know cannabis isn’t the right medication for you.

If you are trying weed for the first time, it’s highly suggested you do so in a controlled environment surrounded by people you trust.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

When it comes to ADHD and marijuana, only so much research has surfaced to offer us an understanding of how the two work together.

But what we do know is this.

People who receive medical treatment for ADHD are given stimulant medication to help them focus. Weed, to say the least, has the complete opposite effect.

In one of the few studies conducted on the matter, PLOS One found that 25% of participants found THC to help with their ADHD symptoms. More specifically, the participants found they had better control over their symptoms.

Other research on ADHD and cannabis remain indefinite. And until further studies are conducted, it’s suggested people struggling with the disorder don’t smoke as a means of relieving symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder

It’s normal for people with bipolar disorder to feel cautious when it comes to using cannabis. The psychoactive ingredients found in THC could leave people with bipolar sensing hallucinations - a symptom associated with the illness.

However, there are certain symptoms of bipolar disorders which cannabis can relieve. These include:

  • Inflammation

  • Loss of appetite

  • Muscle control complications

  • Nausea

  • Pain

For the most part, research has found little to support that cannabis has strong potential for people with bipolar disorder. Though one study discovered significant evidence that marijuana had a positive effect on people’s mood, this doesn’t classify it as proper medication.

Furthermore, some research suggests marijuana can induce mania in people with bipolar disorder.

Depression

When it comes to depression and cannabis, you’re going to find research lacking, but people proclaiming it’s the medication they’ve always needed.

It’s common knowledge amongst the mental health community that people with depression often lack dopamine. Within the cannabis community, it’s fairly well known that THC has the ability to boost dopamine levels. Therefore, it may appear as though people suffering from depression have found their match made in heaven.

Yet, there’s is one major risk to keep in mind. Research has found that people with depression are not only more likely to abuse cannabis, but marijuana might just influence further depression. Especially in people who didn’t suffer from the disorder, to begin with.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People who suffer from PTSD often build up stress inflicted upon by their traumatic experience. In turn, they develop a low amount of cannabinoids.

Thanks to cannabis’s ability to reproduce endocannabinoids, there’s a strong suggestion that people suffering from the disorder can benefit from cannabis. Though there’s not enough research to confirm weed as medication, it’s worth giving a shot.

Schizophrenia

People who suffer from schizophrenia should be wary of smoking cannabis. The fact is weed is prone to leave people in psychosis due to its psychoactive ingredients. Since schizophrenia is labeled as such, there’s research currently being done to see whether or not cannabis use can lead to the mental illness.

What we do know is people who experience psychosis influenced by marijuana only do so in the moment of their high. Once THC wears off the brain and body, so does the psychosis.

However, the long-term effects of cannabis are still being researched. And this is where mental health professionals worry cannabis can inflict schizophrenia onto those who didn’t have it.

What we do know is people who develop schizophrenia due to cannabis usually have one of the following already:

  • Childhood in an urban environment

  • A family’s history of schizophrenia

  • Past child abuse or neglect

With that in mind, it’s unlikely anyone will develop schizophrenia from smoking cannabis. However, it’s highly suggested people already with the disorder don’t intake THC.

Due to marijuana’s strict prohibition, research is only in its early stages when it comes to mental health and cannabis. In the future, there is a likely chance marijuana medications will be prescribed to people with disorders such as anxiety or PTSD. However, as of this time, there remains a lot to be discovered.

Written by Paul James.