Cannabis and Mental Health
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 11/26/2018 in Ailments and Conditions
Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
It’s no secret that mental health disorders are sweeping across the nation and the world right now. From conditions like anxiety and depression to mood and eating disorders, these and other conditions are becoming more common than ever. Countless Americans are finding themselves faced with these struggles and are searching for ways to alleviate their distress.
For some people, counseling is the right option. For others, traditional medication is more helpful. In many cases, people chose to pursue a combination of these different methods. One other viable treatment method for many of these mental health diagnoses is marijuana. In recent years, marijuana has successfully treated many cases of different mental health disorders and is known to help improve the lives of those who suffer from such conditions.
If you are one of the estimated 43.8 million adults in the United States suffering from a mental health disorder, now is the time to seek help. Could medical marijuana be the treatment you’re looking for? Let’s look at the facts.
Is Medical Marijuana Legal?
Before we get into the details of the specific mental health benefits of marijuana, let’s address the looming question that’s sure to be at the forefront of anyone’s mind when the topic of weed arises. Is medical marijuana even legal? After all, if it isn’t, there would seem to be little point in continuing the conversation.
The best answer is that it depends on which state you live in. As you are likely aware, different states have different laws regarding the appropriate use of marijuana. As of November 2018, 33 out of 50 states have relaxed their marijuana regulations to allow for legal use under various circumstances. While only some of these states — such as Colorado and Washington — allow for recreational usage, other states like New York and New Hampshire only allow it for medicinal purposes.
What Mental Health Conditions Can Marijuana Help With?
Even if you know absolutely nothing about marijuana or mental health, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that cannabis has an effect on your mental state. Researchers and scientists have long drawn lines of correlation between marijuana and mental health, simply because of the relaxing effect many strains of pot have on the brain. The correlations run deeper than this superficial level, however, and research is increasingly showing that marijuana can be an effective long-term treatment method for many mental health conditions.
Researchers are still studying marijuana, and new findings are coming to light every day as scientists continue to learn more about how cannabis can help those with mental health disorders. Take a look at this list of some of the top mental health diagnoses that marijuana has been shown to aid with. Is your diagnosis on the list? If so, medical marijuana might be an option that can help empower you to lead your best and healthiest life.
Those who have been fortunate enough to never wrestle with insomnia may be tempted to brush this condition off as simply “trouble falling asleep.” In other words, they may see it as something that’s not a big deal. Sufferers of this condition, however, know that this simplification couldn’t be farther from the truth. Insomnia at its worse can lead to long nights of tossing and turning with little or no relief, followed by days of bleary eyes and a foggy brain as you struggle to function normally on almost no sleep.
The difficulty with treating insomnia is that many of the traditional treatments, such as sleeping pills and drugs like Xanax, are known to be habit forming or even addictive. This can cause the original insomnia to worsen as users become dependent on these drugs and are unable to achieve any sleep at all without them.
Weed has been shown to be an effective and desirable alternative to these more traditional sleep aids. By simply ingesting marijuana about an hour before bed, users should begin to feel calm and sleepy. As both the body and mind relax, users are better able to fall asleep quickly, sleep through the entire night and even have more pleasant dreams.
A few of the particular strains to consider choosing when it comes to battling insomnia include:
- 9 Pound Hammer
- Afghan Kush
- Big Bud
- God’s Gift
- Granddaddy Purple
- Purple Urkle
While migraines can’t entirely be categorized as a mental health disorder, there are enough overlapping characteristics that make it useful to include in this information. As anyone who suffers from persistent and recurring migraines knows, they are more than just bad headaches. In addition to the actual pain of the headache, many sufferers experience nausea and hypersensitivity to light and loud sounds.
Ordinary migraine medicine can be problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it’s been flagged numerous times as potentially dangerous due to the way it raises the user’s blood pressure. In addition to this, it can often make the user extremely drowsy, overwhelming them with an almost irresistible need to sleep. And while sleep itself isn’t harmful, this can be a real problem if the individual in question still needs to work the rest of their shift, drive home or complete other responsibilities.
Medical pot presents an alternative treatment method. By ingesting or smoking marijuana, migraine-sufferers have been known to experience more profound relief than they can get from traditional medication. This is due to retrograde inhibition, which works to slow the rate of neurotransmitters in the brain and offers relief from headaches that are often the result of too much neural stimulation.
In addition to relieving the pain, marijuana is also effective at reducing the secondary symptoms of nausea and hypersensitivity without raising the blood pressure. And while weed is capable of inducing drowsiness, the dosage can also easily be adjusted to counteract and prevent this side-effect when it is unwanted.
Some strains to try for migraine relief include:
- Bubba Kush
- Granddaddy Purple
- Green Crack
- OG Kush
- Purple Arrow
Nearly one in five (18.1 percent) adults in the United States experience problems that can be categorized as an anxiety disorder. From specific diagnoses like PTSD and social anxiety to generalized anxiety disorder, it’s clear from the sheer number of sufferers that effective treatments are in high demand.
When considering marijuana for an anxiety patient, it’s important to pay close attention to the specific strain you’re using. Cannabis comes in two main species, known as indica and sativa. Virtually every strain of marijuana on the market today is made up of a specific combination of these two, or entirely one or the other. This is relevant because these two cannabis species produce vastly different effects on the brain. Indica-heavy strains of pot generally provide intense feelings of drowsiness, relaxation and calm. Sativa-based strains, on the other hand, are more of an energizing experience.
This is important when considering treatments for anxiety. Because anxiety is a condition that causes the thoughts to often whir at lightning-speed, most sativa-heavy strains would only serve to worsen this problem. Instead, anxiety patients would be well-advised to seek out indica-based strains. These types of weed can help grant you a sense of calm and peace, allowing you respite from the crushing worries and swirling thoughts of anxiety.
A few examples of cannabis strains that may help with anxiety include:
- Amnesia Haze
- Chocolate Chunk
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Granddaddy Purple
- Northern Lights
Like anxiety, documented cases of depression in the United States have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Every day, more and more people are diagnosed with this condition and struggling to get through the day. Those suffering from depression know that it’s more than just a feeling of sadness or gloom, although this is certainly part of the condition. Additionally, sufferers feel a lack of motivation and interest even in the things they ordinarily enjoy. They may feel isolated from friends and family and be unable to see any sense of a future.
It would be inaccurate to say that medical pot can cure depression. After all, the last thing that will help someone with depression is to simply cover it up for an hour or two at a time. Rather, marijuana has an amazing potential to help those suffering from depression live a full and productive life while they continue to seek counseling to combat the root of their depression.
Those with depression can smoke or ingest marijuana as a way to elevate their mood, giving them the will and ability to get out of bed and face the day, where on many days they might not otherwise be able to. It can help break up negative downward spirals, which, if left uninterrupted, would continue until the sufferer reached rock-bottom.
Some of the strains of cannabis that have been shown to ease the effects of depression include:
- Jack Herer
- Northern Lights
- Pineapple Express
5. Bipolar Disorder
As both those diagnosed with bipolar disorder and their friends and family know, this condition can be debilitating and can easily prevent sufferers from living a full and normal life. Individuals with this condition will swing forcefully from exuberant highs, where they may engage in destructive or dangerous behavior as well as simply feeling “on top of the world,” to rock-bottom lows where they are unable to even summon the will to get out of bed in the morning.
Medical marijuana has the power to help level out these mood swings, resulting in a more stable and sustainable lifestyle that avoids the highest highs and the lowest lows. While smoking marijuana can lead to a short-lived “high,” this soon fades out and leaves a pleasant and calming effect that lasts for hours. This calm can be an effective mood-stabilizer and help smooth out the mood swings synonymous with bipolar disorder.
Weed also presents an advantage over traditional bipolar disorder treatments. While patients have commonly been treated with lithium, many bipolar individuals find this treatment unpleasant as it levels the mood swings but also leaves them feeling as though all their emotions have been flattened and deadened. Marijuana avoids this feeling of emotional deadness and instead leaves users with a feeling of calm and stable happiness.
Try these strains to help with bipolar disorder:
- Blue Dream
- Jack Herer
- Sour Diesel
- White Widow
When Should Psychiatrists Prescribe Cannabis?
We can see that there are countless ways in which medical marijuana can improve the lives of those suffering from many different mental illnesses. This isn’t even a question anymore and has been proven time and time again. The only real question left to answer, then, is when these treatments are appropriate. Should they be prescribed in every case, or just a select few? Are there any situations where psychiatrists should refrain from prescribing medical marijuana?
Cannabis should never be prescribed in situations where it may worsen an underlying physical condition or even a mental health condition. For example, if a patient suffers from both anxiety and depression, marijuana may not be the correct treatment as an indica strain would soothe the anxiety while potentially exacerbating the depression, and a sativa strain may have the opposite effect.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that while medical marijuana can be very effective at improving the lifestyles of those suffering from mental health disorders and illnesses, cannabis alone will not cure these disorders. In most cases, patients would do well to seek weed as a way to alleviate their symptoms while simultaneously pursuing counseling as a way to get at the root of the condition.
None of these cautionary words negate the fact that cannabis has been shown to be extremely helpful in the lives of many mental health patients. From providing peaceful sleep to soothing stressed nerves, and from boosting motivation to smoothing out mood swings, the positive effects of medical marijuana make it well worth your consideration as a treatment method.
Take Your First Steps Towards Beginning Medical Marijuana Treatment Today
Are you battling one of these or another mental health disorder? Do you struggle to find peace at night or find that intrusive thoughts make it impossible to get through the day? Medical marijuana can help. If you think that this might be the right treatment path for you, then we at Marijuana Doctors want to help you along the way.
To get started on your road to health and wellness, you’ll want to begin by locating a marijuana doctor in your state. Use our interactive search tool to find a certified cannabis doctor near you who can help you navigate the world of different cannabis strains to find the one that might provide the help you need. In addition to locating a doctor, you’ll also want to find a dispensary near you to provide you access to the marijuana you’ll need for your treatment.