There is a significant and long-standing debate over the effects of cannabis on mental health. Let’s look at some ways cannabis impacts mental health and mental illnesses.
Many children, young adults and adults suffer from anxiety (1). Anxiety causes panicking and intense stress-induced brain activity. Some of the symptoms that occur due to anxiety can affect an individual’s cognitive abilities as well. However, research done by MIND Project shows that cannabis eases or even reduces these symptoms.
The Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Project led by neuroscientist Staci Gruber included research on an individual’s cognitive performance, conventional medication use, sleep, quality of life, measures of brain structure and function, mental health and other variants. It determined how cannabis or cannabinoids affected these variants. Basically, the study revealed that patients taking medicinal cannabis to ease their symptoms of anxiety saw improvement in their cognitive functionality. Cannabis also helped ease these symptoms and there was a gradual decrease of symptoms related to the disorder. Additionally, this test covered the benefits it provided to patients with anxiety, and also with other mental health disorders as well.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by painful past experiences or trauma (2). A tragic event in the past or a hurtful memory could affect a person’s mental health and trigger intense anxiety, flashbacks, and even nightmares. People who have been through life-altering experiences in the past often tend to suffer from PTSD.
Although there hasn’t been a medication solely to treat PTSD, research has shown that cannabinoids have helped ease the symptoms. Marcel Bonn-Miller, an AP of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, deduced that patients have resorted to cannabinoids instead of prolonged therapy to ease their symptoms.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects the patient’s ability to perceive reality in a normal state (3). The symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, impaired cognitive functionality, disorganized behaviour, impaired speech due to disorganized thinking.
The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and is responsible for making us feel high. Another compound, CBD, is not confined to cannabinoids receptors and exhibits counteractive effects to THC. In a study done in 2006 by Antonio Waldo Zuardi and his colleagues, CBD was used as monotherapy for treatment-resistant schizophrenia in three individuals (4). The study showed improvement in only one patient. On the other hand, a 19-year-old patient with schizophrenia given 1500 mg of CBD for up to four weeks showed an improvement in acute psychotic symptoms.
CBD is as effective as Amisulpride to treat psychotic symptoms. It has fewer adverse effects, which would include fewer pyramidal symptoms and weight gain. Although there are slight variations in the results of studies conducted on different patients, the therapeutic effects of CBD are undeniable.
The compounds found in cannabis have known to have medicinal effects. On-going studies have often shown cannabis being a better alternative to some of the medications used to treat mental illnesses.
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