Over the last several years mental health has become a topic that is increasingly top of mind, with Mental Health Awareness Month providing an opportunity to pause and check in with ourselves and our loved ones to assess our emotional well-being. Even if anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be fading, that’s not to say it didn’t have a deep impact on our mental health.
So, when it’s Mental Health Awareness Month there is no better time to speak openly and empathetically about a topic that, like cannabis, still faces a lot of stigma. As one of Los Angeles’ best-loved and top-rated dispensaries, we feel it’s our responsibility to talk openly and honestly about marijuana and mental health, and how they may support—or potentially harm—each other.
In today’s post, we’ll share what we know about the conjunction of these two very important topics.
Mental Health Awareness Month: Marijuana Mental Health Benefits
“Mental health” is a huge topic, and it’s often used as a blanket term that can encompass emotional health or refer to a strictly mental or brain chemistry-based view. According to community-based healthcare organization ACCESS, the three most common mental health challenges facing Americans are anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. We’ll dive into them one by one.
If you follow our cannabis blog, you may already know that marijuana shows promise in helping tame anxiety. In particular, there is a growing body or research supporting CBD’s effectiveness in reducing anxiety. THC’s ability to treat anxiety remains less clear, though it appears that dosage is a critical factor. But some studies on cannabis and anxiety suggest that—used in moderation—cannabis can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
Then there’s the topic of depression, a potentially debilitating mental health condition. In any calendar year, it’s estimated that just under 20 million Americans are managing a major depressive disorder. Does cannabis help? Maybe. Because THC’s intoxication is characterized by euphoria, many people turn to it to try and dampen depressive thoughts. A comprehensive survey on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids published in 2017 found that cannabis use by itself didn’t increase the likelihood of developing depression.
But others disagree. A more recent study suggests that cannabis use and depression may in fact be linked. What makes it hard to know is that it’s currently unclear whether using cannabis deepens depression, or depression inspires the cannabis use.
CBD may provide an answer. One case study found that the “second cannabinoid” is useful in staving off depression, though more research is needed.
What about bipolar disorder, a syndrome characterized by extreme mood swings? One study found links between heavy cannabis use and bipolar symptoms. On a related note, another study suggests that cannabis increases the risks of developing schizophrenia, though again, it’s not entirely clear which precipitates which. Either way, the relationship between cannabis and these mental health conditions needs much closer examination. If you’re at risk of either of these serious mental health challenges consider cannabis only under the guidance of a knowledgeable doctor or mental health professional.
Marijuana and Mental Health: Best Practices
If you do decide to use cannabis for symptoms of anxiety or depression, remember that most of the studies we referenced earlier point towards the efficacy of CBD. Because CBD’s psychoactivity works in a much different way than THC’s, many people believe it might be an effective response to certain mental health disorders.
If you do use marijuana products containing THC, it’s helpful to remember that cannabis is biphasic, meaning that its effects are dose-dependent. You may experience calm and relief at a lower dose but anxiety or panic at higher doses, for example. Research indicates that the majority of us actually get greater medical benefit from using less of it! That’s one reason we urge all our customers to “start low, and go slow” when it comes to finding your sweet spot for consumption.
Do you have any other questions about marijuana? Just reach out! We’re always happy to help. Wishing you great self care and wellbeing this month and always!