The legalization of marijuana in many states across the country has opened up a new realm of scientific studies that look at the effects of marijuana and mental illnesses. This includes the physical and mental effects of marijuana and the possibilities of cannabis being used to aid in the treatment of specific conditions. Studies are continuing, but there is much we have already learned throughout this past decade. Here are some of the highlights of what we know so far about marijuana and mental illness.
Anxiety is a common feeling that affects many people, and there is a wide range of anxiety levels. Some common treatments for this disorder typically include therapy and prescription medications. Many people also report using marijuana as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.
One study conducted by the University of Washington in June of 2017 found that people who suffered from social anxiety disorders and mental illnesses used marijuana to help them relax. It also found that low doses of THC appeared to decrease anxiety levels, while high doses appeared to increase anxiety levels. CBD appeared to decrease anxiety levels at all tested doses. The study also explored how marijuana can affect individuals differently, as we all have unique body chemistry makeups.
Depression is a condition that affects every one in five adults in this country. Its symptoms can cause debilitating effects and lead to disorders associated with anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia, and even chronic pain. According to a very recent study published in June of 2020 in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine that focused on depression as a mental illness and marijuana, cannabis may be a very effective treatment for giving immediate relief of symptoms of depression.
The study was led by the founders of University of New Mexico’s (UNM) Marijuana Research Fund, Jacob Vigil, Psychology Associate Professor at UNM, and Sarah See Stith, Economics Assistant Professor at UNM. An app was used to record over 5,000 outcomes as reported by 1,819 individuals who used cannabis for treating depression. The findings concluded that on average, individuals reported immediate symptom improvement at 4 points on a scale of 0 to 10 with the use of marijuana.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In March of 2021, an FDA-regulated study on PTSD mental illness and marijuana was released with promising results. It was a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that used samples containing CBD, samples containing both CBD and THC, and placebos. The data collected found that both cannabis users and the placebo group had a decrease in PTSD symptoms. The results give hope for veterans with PTSD to self-manage their symptoms with marijuana without incurring medication side-effects and without the possibility of making their symptoms worse.
Restless nights and trouble sleeping are common problems for people who suffer from certain conditions like PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and restless leg syndrome. Research suggests that the mental effects of marijuana may help people with these conditions fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and enjoy better sleep quality overall. Sleep studies on marijuana and mental illness vary between daily cannabis users and those who infrequently use it. About 70% of adults that recreationally use cannabis report doing so to improve their sleep, and about 85% of medical marijuana users report that it does help them sleep better.
Opioid Addiction as a Result of Chronic Pain
Many of us have heard of the opioid epidemic that has been a recent plague on America. For years, people with chronic pain were prescribed opioids to treat their condition, which lead to chronic addiction, overdoses, and deaths. To fight the epidemic, doctors everywhere halted prescribing opioids to patients, leaving them with little to treat their pain. The mental effects of marijuana to treat chronic pain is a new and emerging therapy that has helped many people find relief. Researchers found that opioid-related deaths have decreased by as much as one-third in those states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Bipolar disorder is a condition that causes drastic changes in mood, from extremely low and depressive episodes to extremely high and manic episodes. This mental illness may also cause hallucinations and delusions. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but there are treatments to help make one’s life more manageable. In 2016, a pilot study of bipolar mental illness and marijuana found that cannabis users didn’t experience significant mental impairment when compared to non-users with bipolar disorder. Another study published in 2015 found that the marijuana mental effects on those with bipolar disorder caused an enhancement in mood and encouraged a positive outlook.
It has been suggested through research that people with eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, have an underactive neurotransmitter in the area of the brain known as the insula, which is a part of the endocannabinoid system. Because the use of THC and CBD is thought to help regulate the endocannabinoid system and return its function to normal, the mental effects of marijuana may be a promising treatment for those with eating disorders. In a clinical study involving eating disorder mental illnesses and marijuana, women with anorexia received a four-week treatment of synthetic THC, and the results showed significant weight gain among the subjects.
When it comes to marijuana and mental illness, the research shows cannabis to be effective at relieving many symptoms and that it is a convenient, natural treatment option versus prescription medications that might have adverse side effects. Every body has its own chemical makeup, and the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana means that individuals can try cannabis and experience its effects on a personal level. Your own experiences are the best indicator of whether marijuana will be helpful to you.
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