Mental Health

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Cannabis and Mental Health

The pharmaceutical industry is alive and wealthy as a result of the tremendous use of psychotropic medications prescribed to patients for the management of various mental health problems. Americans have grown up with television ads suggesting that they can fix just about any problem with a pill. Although some mental health problems may only require counseling or psychotherapy, others may call for medication on a short or long term basis. Science shows a strong mind-body connection and we have learned that a chemical imbalance in the brain can result in various problems such as severe depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder that can be managed with medications. However, many of these medications come with significant side effects and may cause adverse effects, including suicidal ideation. Additionally, the financial strains of these medications create compliance issues with many patients.

Anecdotal reports suggest that cannabis could be an effective medication without many of the side effects. Studies on the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol or CBD, indicate that it may be effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, agitation and bipolar disorder. This is a clear example of why dronabinol (Marinol or synthetic THC) is not a replacement for cannabis. Also, the psychoactive effects of THC is probably the primary reason psychiatrists, addiction specialists and other healthcare providers shy away from cannabis as medicine. It is ironic that the “high” that is so despised by the medical system is prized by many patients suffering from depression.

Addiction Treatment

Marijuana/Cannabis has been portrayed as a gateway drug of abuse that leads to the use of and addiction to stronger drugs of abuse. The psychoactive effects of cannabis have been cited as a reason it cannot be used as a legitimate medicine. When compared to other drugs of abuse, cannabis does not measure up to the addictive potential of tobacco, alcohol, other illicit drugs or prescribed medications such as opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants or barbiturates. Historic medical use of cannabis preparations, anecdotal reports and new research indicate that rather than a gateway drug to addiction, cannabis holds promise as an exit drug from other drug addictions. Cannabis is a drug, though, and as a drug it has indications and contraindications. People with psychotic disorders probably should not use cannabis. As with any drug, it should be used in the smallest effective dose.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD may more appropriately be referred to as post traumatic stress syndrome because it is the normal response to an abnormal stress. This condition includes an assortment of symptomology including depression, anxiety, rage, insomnia, flashbacks of the event(s), and isolation. Many PTS victims (especially combat veterans or incest victims with a history of repeated traumatic incidents) have found that cannabis provides more relief than the commonly prescribed medications. The discovery that the ECS is involved in the healing process of the mind to “forget” aversive memories seems to offer an explanation as to why it is helpful for this indication.

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