The Positive Effect Marijuana Can Have on Mental Health
The psychiatric community has been in dispute about the effects of marijuana on mental health since the drug came into existence. As awareness surrounding mental health has continued to grow in recent years, so have the arguments for and against using marijuana to treat mental illnesses.
You wouldn’t be to blame if you were left wondering who was telling the truth. Sometimes, it can seem that those against using marijuana in a therapeutic manner have had a head start, and not just when it comes to societal views of marijuana smokers. Even the limited studies into marijuana have focused on illicit drug use as opposed to its therapeutic potential because it’s classified as a schedule 1—or class B—drug. This makes receiving funding and passing an ethics board to receive approval for therapeutic testing almost impossible! [source 1]
However, a team of researchers in Canada and the U.S. who were themselves looking for answers about the potential mental health benefits managed to jump through the hurdles aimed at stopping them from conducting a review of the science behind the plant. [source 1]
In their report, which was later published in the Clinical Psychology Review journal, they found evidence that suggested marijuana could benefit those suffering from common mental health disorders, like depression and social anxiety. There is even some evidence that suggests it could be helpful for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder too! [source 1]
Anxiety disorders, for example, can be completely debilitating for some people, preventing them from being able to socialize, work, or even leave the house. It’s easy to feel like a prisoner in your own skin when your brain seems to be doing everything it can to work against the things you want to be doing.
Often, anxiety disorders involve thoughts or flashbacks cycling around in your head, every minute or every day, leaving sufferers feeling helpless and like they will never catch a break.
In some cases, people have been suffering from anxiety for such a long period of time, at such an intensity, that it can lead to debilitating depression. If you suffer from anxiety, you aren’t alone when thinking death is the only way you’ll ever feel any kind of relief.
You also probably aren’t alone if you’ve gathered the courage to go to your family doctor, only to have pills thrown at you like they’re the best possible course of action. It used to be that medication like Zoloft and Xanax was offered when nothing else worked, but when talking therapies are getting harder to source and bonuses from pharmaceutical are increasing, adding chemicals to your body is no longer seen to be a big deal.
However, it is suggested that smoking or ingesting marijuana for therapeutic reasons can lessen the need for people to rely on antidepressants to control their mental health problems [source 2]. Instead of trialing different chemicals to find out which works for you, the natural plant has relaxation properties that may help provide temporary relief.
Early research studies show that marijuana helps people cope with their everyday stressors more effectively, which could be just what someone needs to feel better able to deal with the source of their mental illnesses. This is because smoking or ingesting marijuana triggers changes within the nervous system, releasing hormones called dopamine and anandamide, which help trigger someone’s body into relaxing. [source 3]
Due to the relaxation properties that help people feel better able to manage their mental health problems, it could also help people battling insomnia, a common sleep disorder that accompanies mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. This makes it harder for someone to fall asleep and stay that way for long enough to sustain themselves during their waking hours, which only exacerbates their mental illnesses, leading to feelings of paranoia and worthlessness.
Marijuana also causes drowsiness, which means that smoking or ingesting the natural drug before you plan to go to bed could help with your tiredness levels, prompting melatonin to kick in and remind your body that it’s time to rest. In addition to hormone levels, though, some people have reported experiencing less negative thoughts while smoking marijuana [Source 2], something which prompts the insomnia that keeps mentally ill people awake for so long, hours past when the rest of the world has gone to bed.
Although getting a good night’s sleep can indirectly help with improving someone’s mood, hostility is something that can be so deeply intertwined with somebody’s mental health that it can be hard to get rid of.
However, one study has found that marijuana can have a catastrophically positive effect on hostile people, affecting their internal hostility, as well as the way they present their verbal hostility towards others within a small group setting. This study found that those who had smoked marijuana showed significantly less verbal hostility than those who had been given the placebo drug, both before and after the introduction of a stimulus meant to frustrate the participants [Source 4].
Although the above study is still in its early stages, and further research would need to be undertaken to indicate the perfect dosage, it shows suggestions simply using marijuana for mental health reasons can be crucial for helping people leave their anger towards others in the past. Could this even be a suggestion for people who have acted on their impulses in the past, helping them to come to terms with their hostility and overcome it at the same time?
It’s hard to know what side to stand on when research is contradicting one another left, right, and center. However, the mix of personal and professional studies featured in this article suggest there is a real chance that the therapeutic benefits of marijuana will only become more known about in the future.
Although initial studies suggest taking marijuana for bipolar disorder can increase the likelihood of psychosis, it could be the perfect solution for a more natural, less medicalized solution to mental health in the 21st century!
[Source 4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/961922]