Health Benefits of Marijuana

Cannabis and Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

weed for anxiety depression

Did you know that anxiety and depression are some of the most prevalent medical conditions in North America?

Well, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18.1% of the population is affected each year, which amounts to more than 40 million people in the US. The association also said that people with anxiety disorders are 3 to 5 times more likely to visit a healthcare institution than those without the condition.

Anxiety and depression can be triggered by life events, one’s personality or even genetics.

Although a lot of people suffer from depression, only a few seek medical help.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment. A large number of anxiety disorders are self-medicated at home and, therefore, are not documented.

There are many people who have resorted to cannabis when it comes to treating anxiety and related disorders.

Cannabis is proving to be a better go-to drug for people with those disorders than some of the pharmaceutical alternatives out there. It’s important to note that cannabis has not been ultimately proven to cure anxiety in all cases, and may not be recommended in certain cases.

While it might work in some instances, it’s not been proven to work across the board.

There have been a plethora of studies that have been carried out to gauge marijuana’s effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. Like other similar studies on cannabis, the findings on this front have not been conclusive.

This has made the clinical support of cannabis a bit reluctant. Clinics have been slow to prescribe cannabis given the inconclusive studies.

It’s no surprise that the Center for Disease Control doesn’t seem to support cannabis as a treatment for anxiety. Instead, the Center supports the government’s claim that the usage of weed brings about an array of side effects, ranging from disorientation to suicide. However, the Center also notes that there hasn’t been a direct connection between cannabis use and self-harm.

Most published studies show that mood disorders and cannabis are complex topics.

In a June 2017 study, Dr. Susan A. Stoner noted their complexities and said: “While the endocannabinoid system seems to help with stress and anxiety, THC and CBD, the two main components of marijuana, have different effects on anxiety.”

She added that pure THC taken in low doses seems to decrease anxiety, while the same compound increases anxiety when taken in high doses. “Pure CBD seems to decrease anxiety, regardless of the dosage. The human body appears to tolerate the effects of weed within a short period as long as the user consumes it regularly.”

Mike Robinson is a patient and a cannabis researcher. He’s the founder of the Global Cannabinoid Research Center based in Santa Barbara, California. He holds a California medical card and says he knows a thing or two about weed and its usage. The former director of communications at the American Academy of Cannabinoid says he uses THC and CBD to manage his day. He adds that no pharmaceutical medication has ever helped him in the way that cannabis does. “It replaced dozens of pills that I had to take.”

Although Dr. Stoner’s findings suggest that weed works in the short-term with harmful side effects like depression when consumed in the long-term, most consumers swear by its long-term use. Brad Zale belongs to that group. He recalls suffering from anxiety ever since he was 10 years old. At 15 years, depression kicked in. He would have daily panic attacks and feel depressed for weeks. To manage his situation, he has a Florida medical card and consumes weed to relax.

Although he still experiences depression, he says that it is now gone for long periods of time. He says he’s more optimistic about his situation than ever before. He is not unique, but rather he is like most others who have settled on cannabis as their sole medication. He started using cannabis in 2016 and says it has helped him move away from nine prescription drugs. “I was taking so many drugs for various reasons, ranging from depression, anxiety, pain and ulcerative colitis. I have since stopped taking all these drugs, except for the occasional medicine for colds and flu.”

Another patient, Melissa Gumley, uses weed to manage her anxiety and depression, two conditions that she’s dealt with for her entire life. She also has ADHD and manic depression. Previously, she would manage her conditions using a bunch of mood stabilizers and anti-anxiety drugs that left her with nasty side effects. Today, she uses cannabis.

She says that she didn’t consider cannabis to be her ideal option in the beginning. At 15 years old, she would use medical cannabis and experience several side effects. This made her go back and forth between cannabis and other drugs and then back to cannabis. In the end, cannabis became her preferred choice. She says she made the decision after learning about the benefits of medical cannabis from an online source.

Unlike Brad, other users found themselves using cannabis after traumatic experiences. Freelancer cannabis writer Max Ballou is a living example. He started using it on a daily basis after being raped in college. He said that cannabis helped him cope with the situation. Apart from cannabis, their primary physician also incorporated other mental health drugs in their regimen. “I had nobody to talk to about the experience and I wasn’t sure that cannabis would help me deal with it effectively,” he says.

Amy Hildebrand is a recent graduate. She’s on the frontline of the cannabis subject thanks to her personal experiences and works within the field. She recently served as the board chair for Students for Sensible Drug Policy and 4Front Ventures. Although cannabis helps with various conditions, it could have negative effects. As a rather heavy user since 15, Hildebrand says long-term use makes her feel as if in a depression. Today, she is not a medical marijuana patient but continues to use weed occasionally. “Sometimes it helps with the anxiety. I think I’m lucky to get good terpenes or specific indicas that help with anxiety, but sometimes I feel like the negative effects of weed can kick in and increase my anxiety.” Anxiety disorders and depression are some of the most common side effects linked to the use of cannabis. Whether or not it is true is still being debated, but anecdotal evidence suggests it helps. As such, the results vary widely.

It gets worse when a person doesn’t have a medical card or lacks legal avenues where they can access clear information on cannabis. Gumley says the divide between legal and illegal states can only worsen the situation. “I didn’t have any guidance when I started my cannabis journey. It became an exercise of trial and error. It takes patience and time to figure out what works for you.” She advised cannabis users to let their bodies adjust to the cannabis, adding that there’s a learning curve.

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