The twenty- first century has witnessed a change in attitudes towards the perception of mental illness. As a subject, which was earlier dismissed and highly stigmatized, mental health now has an open dialogue for discussion due to a shift in the mindsets wherein people are sensitized towards it. The de-stigmatization of mental health and the subsequent realization of its importance, has led to a number of researches seeking alternative and efficient forms of treatment for mental illnesses. A number of studies have explored medicinal cannabis as a potential form of treatment for a number of mental health conditions. But is it an efficient treatment for the same? Stay tuned to understand the effects of cannabis on mental health.
Understanding mental health conditions
While there exist a number of mental health conditions, the ones which medical marijuana is most commonly consumed for are depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. Depression and PTSD share some common symptoms; however, they are essentially separate from one another. Despite anxiety disorder being a mental health issue of its own, it can often accompany depression or PTSD in patients struggling from either. Some commonly known symptoms of depression include; feeling numb or sad, loss of appetite, sleeping too much, disinterest in everyday activities, etc. PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) is a direct result of a traumatic event and causes behavioral changes, avoidance, anxiety due to continuous flashbacks of the events occurred, etc.
Depression, anxiety, and PTSD can often be interrelated. According to a study featuring in Jama Psychiatry, shared neural features can be identified among the aforementioned conditions. It was found that among the patients suffering from depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders there were common hypoactive regions in the brain: the inferior prefrontal cortex, the inferior parietal lobule, and the putamen. These areas of the brain play an important role in blocking cognitive processes and switching to alternate ones. Since they are hypoactive (less active) in those suffering from the aforementioned conditions, such individuals seem to be stuck in the negative states rather than being able to reject them and switch to happier states.
Effects of cannabis on mental health
The endocannabinoid system of the body comprises endocannabinoids and their receptors. This system helps regulate important aspects of our health, including our nervous and immune systems. Endocannabinoids activate the CB1and CB2 brain receptors. The CB1s are found in the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, amygdala, etc. Drawing parallels from the argument above, we find that the hypoactive regions common to patients of depression, anxiety, and PTSD are the very regions where the CB1 receptors are found. The CB1 receptors get blocked in the brain as a result of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Due to low levels of endocannabinoids, those suffering from the aforementioned conditions are unable to get out of negative mood states.
Cannabis can prove to be helpful in dealing with depression, anxiety and PTSD because the cannabinoids found in it resemble the endocannabinoids. THC is found to enhance sleep, reduce nightmares, and mitigate other PTSD symptoms among the patients, however, there are mixed reviews on the topic. Additionally, cannabis reduces the propensity for inflammation and could be very helpful in psychological conditions which involve inflammation within the brain due to decreased endocannabinoids. Cannabis could also help block the traumatic memories associated with PTSD.
Medicinal Benefits of CBD
Some studies have shown CBD to be useful in the treatment of the aforementioned conditions. When tested on animal models, it was found that CBD can act as an antidepressant and reduce anxiety. This is because CBD does not contain the psychoactive compounds present in THC, and can therefore, have a calming effect on the patients.
A study of Washington State University concluded that different strains that had different THC to CBD ratios had different effects on patients. For instance, in terms of depression, the study reported that individuals saw a decrease in their depression when they consumed strains with low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. High levels of CBD could also help with anxiety disorders because they help calm the patients and counteract the paranoia that THC might cause.
Word from Hempstreet
Though there is not enough research on cannabis and mental health but, it is apparent from the above information that it could be of help to those struggling. If you think that cannabis could help treat your mental health condition, it is advised that you consult your mental health professional for an appropriate prescription. We strongly advise against self-medication in order to get know about the effects of cannabis on mental health