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Marijuana May Not Be Effective In Treating Mental Health Problems, New Study Explains Why

Weed, ganja, pot, grass, Mary Jane and another 1000 more names, cannabis or marijuana is not a foreign term to us all. For years, researchers and medical experts have gone over, under and through to explore the possible health benefits offered by the 420-herb.

The hazy herb gets its psychoactive property due to the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant. This is the reason why marijuana can leave you feeling 'high' or 'stoned', having mental and physical effects on the individual using it [1] .

The alleged health benefits of marijuana vary from relieving stress to improving your immune system. A debatable topic for a very long time now, the hazy greens are looked at as a tabooed indulgence by somewhere as others see it as a way of life.

In this article, we will take a look at the plausible health benefits, the impact on mental health and the findings of recent studies.

Health Benefits Of Marijuana

  • Treats glaucoma
  • Controls epileptic seizure [2]
  • Prevents cancer
  • Eases anxiety
  • Manages multiple sclerosis
  • Treats inflammatory bowel disease
  • Soothes tremor
  • Eases PTSD symptoms
  • Improves sleep quality

Cannabidiol (CBD) - The Phytocannabinoid Responsible For (Alleged) Improved Mental Health

Commonly an illegal drug, studies on cannabis being used for improving one's mental health has increased in the past few years. It is cannabidiol (CBD) - a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940 and one of the 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants - that is responsible for the herb's application in the treatment and improvement of one's mental health [3] .

There have been various misconceptions about the role of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in improving mental health, that is, consumers are confused between the two natural compounds found in the plant. Yes, one can get confused if it is CBD or THC that has mental health benefits and let me clear that out for you - of course with the help of science-backed proof.

CBD and THC have many of the same medical benefits. While THC does help in easing anxiety it comes with certain side effects such as increased heart rate and memory loss whereas CBD can be well-tolerated by your body, even in large doses [4] . With such side effects of increased heart rate and memory loss, the effectiveness of the compound in the treatment of mental health has been rather ambiguous [5] .

More Studies On Cannabinoids And Their Impact On Mental Health

With a rapidly growing number of studies being conducted on understanding the possible impact of marijuana on improving one's mental health, recent studies have asserted that (unfortunately) there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend cannabinoids for treating mental health conditions [6] .

The studies have focused on the role of both CBD and THC and researchers found that there is a lack of grounded theory and evidence which can support the claim that cannabinoids can improve the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions [5] .

With the recent results suggesting the lack of solid proof, medical experts from around the world have voiced that physicians should refrain from recommending cannabinoids to their patients for the treatment of mental health disorders.

THC, CBD And Mental Health

Yes, it does come as a shock - a shock that the hazy greens can no longer be dubbed as the anxiety-reliever. While it can help you take the edge off from your daily stress and provide relief from headache, it is no cure for your clinical depression (not my words - the study said so!).

The current research included 83 studies from 1980 through 2018 which were all regarding the application of cannabinoids to treat symptoms of mental health conditions. The study covered the grounds on depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychosis, and Tourette syndrome treatment [7] .

But shockingly, contradicting the existing studies - the most recent study has stated that while pharmaceutical THC did help in reducing the symptoms of anxiety in people with other medical conditions, the application of CBD for serious conditions such as depression or ADHD did not have any desired impact [7] .

Pharmaceutical THC May Worsen Psychosis Symptoms

One of the other recent studies suggested that pharmaceutical THC made the symptoms of psychosis worse and also caused adverse side effects in the study subjects. The studies were also rooted in the argument that there is indeed a significant risk of negative side effects from cannabinoid use such as depression, anxiety and psychosis [8] .

Health Experts Recommend Caution In Marijuana Use For Mental Health

With the recent study revealing close to no positive effect on mental health problems, medical experts have asserted that prescribing cannabis for mental health should be limited or carried out only after further studies are conducted.

Various researchers have asserted that there is a scope for more research because cannabinoids may have some beneficial potential for treatment [9] . As of now, several studies are under-way to look at the benefits of pharmaceutical CBD for specific conditions, including psychosis.

In the meantime, one must be careful in using cannabinoids to treat a mental health condition as there is a chance that untreated or poorly treated mental illness may get worse [10] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Nahas, G., Harvey, D. J., Sutin, K., Turndorf, H., & Cancro, R. (2002). A molecular basis of the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of cannabis (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 26(4), 721-730.
  2. [2] Pisanti, S., & Bifulco, M. (2019). Medical cannabis: a plurimillennial history of an evergreen. Journal of cellular physiology, 234(6), 8342-8351.
  3. [3] Ingram, G., & Pearson, O. R. (2019). Cannabis and multiple sclerosis. Practical neurology, 19(4), 310-315.
  4. [4] Ahuja, A. S. (2019). Cannabis-based treatments as an alternative remedy for epilepsy. Integrative medicine research, 8(3), 200.
  5. [5] Fathordoobady, F., Singh, A., Kitts, D. D., & Pratap Singh, A. (2019). Hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) Extract: Anti-Microbial Properties, Methods of Extraction, and Potential Oral Delivery. Food Reviews International, 35(7), 664-684.
  6. [6] Schnakenberg Martin, A. M., & Lysaker, P. H. (2019). Individuals with psychosis and a lifetime history of cannabis use show greater deficits in emotional experience compared to non-using peers. Journal of Mental Health, 1-6.
  7. [7] Rosenberg, K. (2019). Daily Cannabis use Adversely Affects Mental Health. AJN The American Journal of Nursing, 119(7), 62.
  8. [8] Gage, S. H. (2019). Cannabis and psychosis: triangulating the evidence. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(5), 364-365.
  9. [9] Di Forti, M., Morgan, C., Selten, J. P., Lynskey, M., & Murray, R. M. (2019). High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption–Authors' reply. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(6), 466-467.
  10. [10] Leadbeater, B. J., Ames, M. E., & Linden‐Carmichael, A. N. (2019). Age‐varying effects of cannabis use frequency and disorder on symptoms of psychosis, depression and anxiety in adolescents and adults. Addiction, 114(2), 278-293.
Story first published: Thursday, October 31, 2019, 17:30 [IST]
Read more about: marijuana cannabis mental health