The Relationship Between Cannabis And Mental Health
Estimated 5-minute read
As cannabis becomes more and more socially accepted everywhere, with old ideas and assumptions slowly fades to the background in favor of more rational and objective facts, our understanding of this plant also has started to change, with more freedom than ever to experiment and understand the unique characteristics hiding behind the humble cannabis plant.
And one of the most persistent myths about weed is that, thanks to dumping it along with harder, actually dangerous drugs like meth, cocaine or heroin, the consumption of THC can actually be addictive and dangerous to mental health, without much in the way of evidence in that regard. However, things might start to change soon, and from the best perspective possible.
In fact, this mainstream acceptance of cannabis has become serious enough that even institutions like the Medical Research Council of the King’s College London have decided to finally look into it, and has allocated £2.5 million to a special study of the effects of weed in the human brain, trying to find out what kind of relationship exists between cannabis and mental health. Weed has been surrounded by misconceptions, rumors and hearsay for so long that getting a definite answer, now that cannabis is becoming a fact of life, is important for many people.
This study, called Cannabis & Me, which includes a survey that you can take in that link if you live in the UK, will use “a combination of DNA genetic and epigenetics testing, psychological and cognitive analysis, and virtual reality to understand the link between a user’s biological makeup and the effect cannabis has on them”, with the ultimate goal of establishing how trauma develops, and how weed can have an influence on it, a bit of knowledge that might be important for the almost 200 million users of cannabis that exist worldwide.
“The questionnaire aims to explore firstly, the different effects that people experience when they use cannabis and how these might relate to other recreational drug use, live events, including trauma or illnesses, but also positive situations and social context. Secondly, we are interested in understanding how mood, anxiety and changes in the way we feel or think in general and in particular in social situations might influence the use of cannabis and vice-versa. To better understand the latter we need a comparison group” is the description you will find in the study itself. However, what is the aim here? What can we begin to learn from these studies, and what is the benefit for pot enjoyers everywhere?
A more medical perspective
The medical applications of cannabis are vast. It’s pretty well known how CBD is good for pain management, with ailments such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and migraine, and even the side-effects of cancer treatment finding relief with the application of cannabis-based remedies, even if the studies and advancements in the matter have been marred by the legal and social issues that surround this plant.
However, in the more medical and psychological sides, our understanding is far behind; while we know that cannabis is good for conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or Tourette syndrome, the stigma of producing mental issues still persists.
“Marijuana is a psychoactive substance, meaning it changes the way a person thinks and feels. THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, generates many of the drug’s mind-altering effects. When someone smokes, vapes or ingests pot, THC latches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that affect pleasure, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, memory and coordinated movement”, mentions this blog on the matter. And you may as well know these side-effects from first hand experience, so maybe there’s something there. But how to objectively study the effects of a plant that has some many social stigmas attached? How to begin differentiating fact from myth? This is exactly what the King’s College London aims to find out, establishing some bases for further changes in cannabis administration and policies.
In the specific case of the UK, cannabis prescriptions for real medical issues remain rare, which is why this specific study goes so deep; differentiating between social stigmas, actual psychological side-effects, and even social factors involved in traumatic responses observed among some cannabis users. And delving into the finer details of each participant of the study, from genetics to social class, our more complete understanding of cannabis can only benefit the future of our consumption of this plant.
“Cannabis is consumed daily by many recreationally but also for medicinal reasons. But in the UK, the prescription of medicinal cannabis remains rare. Our study aims to provide data and tools that can make physicians in the UK and across the world more confident, where appropriate, in prescribing cannabis safely", says Dr. Marta Di Forti, Senior Clinical Fellow at King's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.
A brighter, more accepting future
The acceptance of cannabis will definitely not stop now. As more and more countries and governments change their legislations regarding cannabis, and its use becomes more normalized, having a complete picture and understanding of this plant will become easier, especially in such important matters as medicine or psychology.
The thing is, cannabis affects everyone differently; most users see no issue in strong strains for extended periods of time, and some unlucky ones might unintentionally bring out something hidden in their minds when lighting up a joint, so studies as the Cannabis & Me one are going to become very important in the future. It might be interesting to see how prescriptions and recommended dosages change in the future depending on your genetic make-up, or emotional stability, or physical health, to ensure you enjoy the cannabis plant to the maximum without any undesirable bad effects. In the words of Dr. Forti, who we quoted earlier: “More research is needed about how the drug interacts with the brain so doctors can be more confident when considering prescribing medical cannabis.”
So, if everything goes well, we might be seeing a new era of cannabis to come about, where a serious medical and scientific back-up, coming from respectable institutions, can finally make weed free, giving us all the knowledge we need to enjoy one of the most versatile plants around. Who knows, we might look at weed completely differently in the near future.