Staying Well with Cannabis: A Social Worker & Public Health Researchers Perspective

Updated: Mar 17, 2020

Shannon talks trauma, healing, medicating with cannabis, and even the COVID-19 virus with Dr. Amanda Reinman, Ph.D., MSW.

Do you have any advice for survivors looking to cannabis as a healing intervention?

Cannabis can be a useful tool for accessing difficult emotions and working through them from a new perspective. However, cannabis can also be a convenient way to avoid dealing with painful issues. Sometimes avoidance is necessary to cope and survive, but mindfulness needs to be a part of cannabis practice.

How can survivors of trauma navigate using cannabis and the stigma associated?

Trauma can make people hypersensitive to their environments. This awareness might increase the impact of stigma. Luckily, there are scores of support groups for those using cannabis for trauma. I recommend finding a group of folks, either in person or online, who can support you through the development of your cannabis practice. They will be a helpful reminder of the wellness you seek and the right you have to feel happy and healthy.

Medication-Assisted Therapy with cannabis? Have you noticed resistance from 12-step recovery communities?

Absolutely. The treatment industry makes money off of repeat customers. Without relapse, these businesses would not survive. Harm reduction has been shown to be a more successful form of treatment long term than abstinence. Good for people, bad for business. Cannabis ABSOLUTELY has a place in the treatment of substance dependence. Whether that is as a withdrawal medication, a substitute for psychotropic medication or maintenance medication, cannabis can save lives of people with drug dependence, if only we didn’t treat their wellness as an economic opportunity.

Any advice for mental health and recovery professionals looking at cannabis as medicine for the first time?

Learn as much as you can, and know how to tell the difference between evidence and fiction. Talk to patients and don’t be afraid if they know more than you. The medical profession has excluded cannabis for a long time in favor of a pharmaceutical paradigm.

Trauma-Informed Consumption: What’s your take on the use of the word? Can we replace patients with people and apply the same principles?

Honestly, I feel like it is almost redundant in this space. So many people who use cannabis as a practice (regularly) have trauma in their past. I like “mindful consumption” because whether you are using cannabis to heal from trauma or not, consumption should be mindful. It should be done with intention and awareness. It can be a tool for both discovery and avoidance. Both can be useful in healing, but both require mindfulness as well.

As a social worker, how do you see plant and fungi assisted therapies evolving with legalization? Do you think it will have a positive impact on overall community mental health?

I see access expanding beyond those who sought these plants out under prohibition and that is exciting to me. Older people are now taking advantage of cannabis as never before, and I want to see the same thing for other therapeutic plants. It will absolutely change mental health treatment forever, and I think that, in the not too distant future, plant medicine will be right there alongside pharma as the first choice for patients.

Suggestions for how survivors & consumers alike can stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Of course, there are the specifics of safety: wash your hands, stay home as much as possible, avoid crowds, even if you don't have any symptoms or perceive yourself as young and healthy. But, I believe that safety goes beyond the specifics of hygiene and distancing. Safety also means establishing a support system, feeling ok relying on others for help, admitting when it's too much and then returning the favor when your strength returns. Mostly, safety in these times is kindness. Kindness to yourself, to others. I suggest meditation, taking breaks from the news and social media and spending time outside even if it is just a breath of fresh air from your doorway.

"Mostly, safety in these times is kindness. Kindness to yourself, to others. I suggest meditation, taking breaks from the news and social media and spending time outside even if it is just a breath of fresh air from your doorway."

Amanda Reiman, LCSW, PhD

is the Head of Community Relations for Flow Kana, a branded cannabis distribution company that works with small farmers in the Emerald Triangle and the Secretary of the International Cannabis Farmer’s Association, a non-profit that advocates for research and policies that favor sun grown cannabis cultivation through traditional farming methods.

After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Dr. Reiman was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad. She also taught courses on substance abuse treatment and drug policy at UC Berkeley for 10 years.