The Pros and Cons of Cannabis and Mental Health
Cannabis and mental health, beyond the smoke and mirrors.
Researchers have found ample correlation between depressive and anxiety disorders and cannabis use, but it’s difficult to pinpoint which comes first, the joint or the diagnosis.
We’re just like you; curious about cannabis beyond the smoke and mirrors.
This post will lay out the pros and cons of using cannabis when it comes to mental health in order to help you understand what’s best for your own cannabis journey.
It’s important to note, however, that we are not qualified doctors or researchers and cannot definitively say what your reaction to cannabis will be.
“I have always loved marijuana. It has been a source of joy and comfort to me for many years.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
There is a reason people were smoking cannabis years before it’s many medical purposes were discovered: it feels good. Euphoria, defined as intense excitement or happiness, is the most commonly reported effect of cannabis and is often reported as the reason why people use it. In fact, in one study 75% of consumers said they partook in cannabis for “relaxation” and “pleasure.”
2. Heightened Perception
“Marijuana is a useful catalyst for specific optical and aural aesthetic perceptions. I apprehended the structure of certain pieces of jazz and classical music in a new manner under the influence of marijuana, and these apprehensions have remained valid in years of normal consciousness.”
In a study done by The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, researchers found that people partaking in cannabis experienced heightened color and sound perception and had a greater liking for music. This was, however, at the expense of spatial perception which seemed to become impaired.
3. Lowered Anxiety
“The biggest killer on the planet is stress, and I still think the best medicine is and always has been cannabis.”
A research study conducted in early 2020 found that strains higher in Cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis, lowered user’s social anxiety. This was also the case in users with schizophrenia, though results for this group of people were mixed.
4. Improved Sleep
“I wanted a healthier, more natural option for pain management, sleep aid, relaxation while flying, and general recovery.”
There is tentative evidence collected by BMC Psychology to suggest that cannabis can improve sleep. The same study suggested it may also lessen the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, however, there is not enough research to make any definitive conclusions.
5. Depression Management
“It can really be an alternative pain management system, and, in some cases, helpful for depression.”
There are preliminary signs that cannabis can improve the general mental health of those with certain depressive disorders. However, researchers admit that the type of depressive disorder and the type of cannabis greatly impact effectiveness.
1. Higher Social Anxiety
“I felt crushed with anxiety.”
While cannabis strains high in CBD has been shown to lead to lower social anxiety, strains higher in the psychoactive substance THC have been linked to a higher risk of panic attacks by folks new to using cannabis.
2. Amotivational Syndrome
“I was smoking way too much dope, I was sitting on the couch and just turning into a doughnut and I really got irritated with myself."
Amotivational syndrome is when users become “apathetic” and “socially withdrawn” according to cannabis writer Nancy Schimelpfening. Cannabis has had some positive impact on folks with depression, but other users who experience amotivational syndrome might find that the symptoms exacerbate depressive episodes.
3. Lack of Restful Sleep
Unfortunately, no celebrity has ever been quoted about how their use of cannabis affects their REM sleep. However, this doesn’t negate the 2008 study and countless more after it from finding that any drug including cannabis prevents the brain from going into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep until the drug has completely worn off. This lack of deep sleep can leave folks feeling tired even after getting a full night’s sleep, which over time could be a factor in lower energy and morale.
4. Suicidality in Young Users
Again, there’s no quote from a celeb to make this con less heavy. A study in 2004 that observed almost 300 pairs of twins found that the cannabis dependent twin was on average 2.5 to 2.9 times more likely to have suicidal ideation or attempt suicide than the non-cannabis dependent twin. It’s important to note that this distinction was only the case when the cannabis user started at a young age (17 or under).
While research has been expanding into the topic of mental health and cannabis use, there are very few solid conclusions being drawn. This is due to the number of variables that can change a person’s interaction with cannabis, and the wide array of forms and strains cannabis takes. The most important part of any cannabis use is that you, the user, are noticing the effects it has on your mental health.
"The most important part of any cannabis use is that you, the user, are noticing the effects it has on your mental health."
For more information on cannabis and hemp for mental health, or for a state-by-state guide on qualifying mental health conditions, check out The Calm, Cool, & Collected.