In light of Oct. 10 being World Mental Health Day, let’s take a deep dive into the realm of cannabinoid therapy for mental health disorders. Millions of individuals around the globe live with mental health disorders, and for many, these conditions cause a drastic disturbance in their daily lives and even the lives of those around them.
Any clinically significant disturbance in one’s emotional regulation, behavior, or cognition may classify as a mental health disorder. Most often, mental health disorders are also associated with impairment in functioning as well as overall distress. Many times, mental health conditions tend to affect one’s physical health as well, leading to other symptoms and ailments.
Mental health disorders are very prevalent globally, with an estimated 970 million individuals around the world living with a mental disorder. Among these conditions, the most prevalent are anxiety and depressive disorders. Eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia are also faced by patients frequently. Let’s explore some of these conditions, their prevalence, and how cannabis may be a beneficial treatment option.
While the numbers surrounding mental health disorders are shocking, and even spiked during the pandemic, they don’t encapsulate the full population of those suffering from these conditions, as many people do not have access to mental healthcare and are living with undiagnosed mental health disorders. Additionally, many of the treatments available for these conditions can cause more harm than good. There is a plant, however, by the name of cannabis that has been proven through research to offer substantial therapeutic benefits to patients with mental health disorders. Let’s explore.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2019 there were an estimated 301 million individuals globally living with an anxiety disorder, including 58 million children and adolescents. Anxiety disorders encapsulate many different conditions that are characterized by worry, excessive fear, and related behavioral disturbances. These conditions include but are not limited to panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Research conducted by Canadian scientists and published in the journal Psychiatry Research found that 43% of participating patients were utilizing medical cannabis for anxiety. The General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) score for these patients decreased most significantly between one and three months after starting cannabinoid treatments and again after roughly two years of consecutive use. A 2017 study published by researchers at the University of Washington found that CBD was able to decrease anxiety at varying doses, whereas THC appeared to have the most effect on anxiety when administered in lower doses.
The numbers surrounding depression are also very staggering, with the WHO estimating that there were 280 million individuals living with depression or depression-related conditions as of 2019. Everyone will experience moments of deep sadness or apathy, but clinical depression is much more than that. In many cases, the lack of concentration, feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness, disrupted sleep patterns, changes in appetite, and other symptoms of depression are so severe that they affect one’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
In 2015 researchers from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo found that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC can drastically help reduce stress, which is a known underlying cause of depression in both animals and humans. Additionally, an observational study from 2020 found that based on self-reports, over 95% of respondents reported immediate relief from depression after cannabis consumption. Aside from cannabinoids within cannabis, there are also prevalent terpenes within cannabis, such as linalool, that have been proven to have an antidepressant effect.
PTSD is another type of mental health disorder that is prevalent around the globe. PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories of traumatic events. Those with PTSD may also avoid activities, people, or situations that remind them of such events and may have an overwhelming threat perception leading them to think that said event may occur again.
In 2019 the National Alliance on Mental Health reported that there were an estimated 9 million people, or roughly 3.6% of the U.S. adult population, living with PTSD in the United States. An ongoing observational study that followed 150 PTSD patients found that those utilizing cannabinoid therapies showed a significantly greater decrease in their PTSD symptoms during their 1-year evaluation period. Additionally, this study showed that individuals utilizing cannabinoid therapies for the treatment of PTSD were also two-and-a-half times more likely to no longer meet the defined DSM-5 criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
In an alternative study, researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, found that THC was able to decrease the intensity of emotions that were previously associated with traumatic memories when administered to patients before extinction learning. These studies suggest that cannabis may hold great therapeutic potential for those living with PTSD.
Eating disorders are also considered mental health disorders. The WHO estimates that there are 3 million children and adolescents living with eating disorders around the globe. In total, it is estimated that there were roughly 14 million people who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder as of 2019 globally. Some associated eating disorders that classify as mental health conditions include anorexia and bulimia.
According to research, the functionality of the endocannabinoid system within patients who live with anorexia or bulimia is often impaired or adversely affected. One of the key underlying symptoms of eating disorders is having an unhealthy relationship with food and either eating too much or not enough. The body’s endocannabinoid system plays a role in appetite regulation and is widely known for increasing appetite, which makes it an obvious potential benefit for those with anorexia.
However, for those with eating disorders that lead to things such as obesity, the benefits of medical cannabis might not be as obvious. This is where cannabis strains that are potent in a cannabinoid known as THCV come into play. This cannabinoid, unlike THC, has been shown to actually suppress the appetite. Additionally, studies have shown that regular cannabis consumers maintain a much healthier average BMI in comparison to those who do not consume the plant.
These are just a few of the mental health conditions that cannabis may be beneficial for. If you or a loved one lives with a mental health disorder, perhaps cannabinoid therapies are what you need to find a higher quality of life. Looking to learn more about using medical cannabis for mental health? Schedule an appointment with an MMJ doctor today!
To find out if your state offers medical cannabis for mental health conditions, visit this post.
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October 11, 2022 at 6:37 pm
All I have to say is that I am recovering from a TBI that occurred 3.5 years ago. I’m prescribed a literal pile of meds now and the doctors do not want me to engage in the use of marijuana in any form or manner whatsoever. It’s absolutely just soul crushing and frustrating as hell. That the meds that I am prescribed are prescribed for relief of pain and discomfort, but alas I’m still enduring and going through this discomfort and irritation. To engage in the entire use of marijuana in any form or manner whatsoever would indefinitely and absolutely be a great reliever of pain and irritation. But because I had a TBI I’m forbidden from any engagement in the use of it in any form or manner whatsoever. Sob sob, whine whine, cry cry.
Wes Whitmire says:
October 11, 2022 at 7:10 pm
Cannabis has helped me get through tuff times in high school and in life.starting researching more of the strains to help me ADHD anxiety insomnia plus back pain.I use to get the night before a big test I could read Stephen king book in night trying to sleep.after getting older found out which sativa works.cbd kept me awake but with some indica notice how my panic attacks were less when I mixed cbd with indica.sativa would make me jittery
October 12, 2022 at 7:53 am
I have been trying to get a medical marijuana card for many years and so far no one has helped me. I get terrible anxiety at times. Can someone please help me.