Cannabis to treat mental illness, what does the research say?

Cannabis, Mental Health, Newcastillian
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Medical advancements are how you and I get to enjoy today. I know we tend to overlook so much of this, which as you would agree—is merely good old human nature in motion.

But, you have to understand, the constant changes and advancements in the medical industry are happening so rapidly that one needs to read more on the subject daily.

This industry has an innate amount of pressure on it, as we being the reason for its existence, are continuously demanding better and longer lives.

This, coupled with a demand from many for cheaper, organic, nature-friendly and fewer side effects—has pushed the medical industry to keep finding effective and healthier treatments in other areas.

Therefore, if medications which treat a medical condition while adhering to peoples’ requirements, offers the medical sector opportunities —they would be downright silly to overlook them.

Additionally, research in the scientific community is everything. This ensures that by the time a product or better yet a compound is deemed beneficial for humans, you can rest assured, it is precisely that.

And when looking at mental health issues and pressures currently resting on so many people’s shoulders, many are looking for safer, more cost-effective treatments.

Yes, there are various medications which can combat the symptoms of mental illness. Their benefits are undeniable. However, their “nasty side effects”, due to being a chemical composition—can at times overshadow the benefits. E.g. Loss of libido, no personality, no desire for life, suicidal tendencies etc.

This is why cannabis, a plant which, despite being vilified by society for the strangest reasons many years ago, does have beneficial uses according to research.

Recently there has been an increase in research on the subject, which reveals cannabis (or at least certain natural chemicals from the plant) have a potentially beneficial effect on a range of psychiatric disorders.

While research is still relatively embryonic, some does show certain cannabis-derived chemicals (cannabinoids, and in particular ‘cannabidiol’ which is known as CBD) may be effective in reducing social anxiety.

To prove the benefits of cannabis, a medical article – Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review – was written by Jerome Sarris, Justin Sinclair, Diana Karamacoska, Maggie Davidson, and Joseph Firth, who are all based at NICM Health Research Institute in Australia.

In their report, they explain, “The first clinically-focused systematic review on the emerging medical application of cannabis across all major psychiatric disorders was conducted.”

Additionally, they elaborate that current evidence regarding whole plant formulations and plant-derived cannabinoid isolates in mood, anxiety, sleep, psychotic disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is discussed, while also detailing clinical prescription considerations (including pharmacogenomics), occupational and public health elements, and future research recommendations.

Such was the focus on the studies that an in-depth systematic review of the literature was conducted during 2019, assessing the data from all case studies and clinical trials involving medicinal cannabis or plant-derived isolates for all major psychiatric disorders.

According to their findings, the current evidence in the emerging field of cannabinoid therapeutics in psychiatry is still “budding”; therefore, they claim it is currently premature to recommend cannabinoid-based interventions.

However, they found isolated positive studies revealed tentative support for cannabinoids (namely cannabidiol; CBD) for reducing social anxiety; with mixed (mainly positive) evidence for adjunctive use in schizophrenia.

Furthermore, they explain, “Case studies suggest that medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for improving sleep and posttraumatic stress disorder, however evidence is currently weak. Preliminary research findings indicate no benefit for depression from high delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) therapeutics, or for CBD in mania. One isolated study indicates some potential efficacy for an oral cannabinoid/terpene combination in ADHD. Clinical prescriptive consideration involves caution in the use of high-THC formulations (avoidance in youth, and in people with anxiety or psychotic disorders), gradual titration, regular assessment, and caution in cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, pregnancy and breast-feeding.”

According to an article published by Peter Grinspoon, M.D., on Harvard Health Publishing, the use of cannabis is beneficial when addressing mental health.

Grinspoon practices as a primary care physician at an inner-city clinic in Boston and is on staff at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also teaches medicine at Harvard Medical Schooclamourinspoon writes—patients do report many benefits from the use of CBD, from relieving insomnia, anxiety, spasticity, and pain to treating potentially life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy.

He adds, “One particular form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome is almost impossible to control but responds dramatically to a CBD-dominant strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web. The videos of this are dramatic.”

Such is his belief in CBD, that he also writes, “A highly promising area of research is its use for PTSD in veterans who are returning from combat zones. Many veterans and their therapists report drastic improvement and clamor for more studies, and for a loosening of governmental restrictions on its study.”

While research around the use of cannabis, especially that of CBD, is proving its merit in assisting people with an array of mental disorder—there appears to be some negative research.

According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), one needs to be cautious before lighting up or using cannabis products.

In an article – The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research – which is published on the NCBI site—whereby the effects of cannabis are looked at extensively, states:

Cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychoses. The report says the higher the use of cannabis, the greater the risk.

The article also shows that researchers found that cannabis use does not appear to increase the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Furthermore, the article claims that regular cannabis use is likely to increase the risk of developing a social anxiety disorder.

With research still being conducted in this field, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Have you experienced the effects of cannabis, and do you feel it can prove to be beneficial in combating mental illness?

Share your opinions with us in the comment section below.

Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer

Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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Quinton Boucher

Quinton Boucher

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