Cannabis is can treat a myriad of physical ailments. From chronic pain and seizures, to nausea and lack of appetite, cannabis has successfully brought relief to patients who suffer from various symptoms. In some states, cannabis can also be prescribed for mental health disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. While consuming cannabis to treat physical ailments has gained significant traction in the medical community and the court of public opinion, consumng cannabis to treat a wide range of mental health disorders has been slower to gain acceptance.
“We also see that using cannabis to reduce anxiety, or increase well-being, are widely endorsed as reasons why people use cannabis.”
That may soon begin to change thanks to innovative, researchers all over the world. A study was published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in July of 2015 entitled “PTSD Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program” will hopefully open the door for more research. New Mexico was the first state to legalize medical cannabis for PTSD treatment, and as such had the largest body of data to work with. Participants in the study had their Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) score measured, and then compared the results of those being treated with cannabis, and those who were not.
These types of studies and their subsequent results are just the kind of progress that Zach Walsh, a professor and researcher at University of British Columbia’s (UBC), hopes to continue. Walsh is conducting a study at the Kelowna Campus of UBC on “The Therapeutic, Recreational and Problematic Substance Use Lab.” The lab “focuses on the use of cannabis for therapeutic and recreational purposes, and on the associations between cannabis use, mental health and addictions.” In an interview with CULTURE, Walsh discussed the use of cannabis in treating mental health disorders.
“We have a long history of cannabis being used in the medical literature before prohibition,” Walsh said. “There are a lot of anecdotes about cannabis being used to treat mental health conditions, particularly depression. We also see that consuming cannabis to reduce anxiety, or increase well-being, are widely endorsed as reasons why people use cannabis.” Cannabis has long since been removed from the ingredients label of pre-prohibition medicine, but its acceptance today as a medicine that can effectively treat both physical ailments, as well mental health, isn’t new. Walsh noted that it shouldn’t be a surprise at all, given that cannabis was heavily experimented with in the past. Put plainly, it used to help people before, and it is still as effective as ever.
Studies such as the one that Walsh is currently conducting are trying to provide evidence that could eventually lead to mental health patients gaining better access to cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceutical medicines. “There are a lot of people who use Valium, antidepressants or a number of different medications to treat mental health conditions, so cannabis should be evaluated the same way those are evaluated,” Walsh explained.
The next necessary step is increasing the number of clinical trials that are being conducted on people with mental health conditions, which is exactly what Walsh and his team are working toward. “I expect that in the years to come, not too many years, over the next decade I would hope, that we’ll see cannabis used in some trials for other mental health conditions,” he added. “Anxiety, depression, perhaps these might be the targets. Then we’ll be able to really compare [cannabis] to other medicines out there. I expect that we’ll see that cannabis is for some people, acceptably effective, with a very acceptable risk profile. But that remains to be seen. The most important thing now is to do the research,” Walsh concluded.
People all over the world use cannabis to ease symptoms caused by mental health disorders, diagnosed or not, every single day. Those who suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, even anorexia, have all been said to experience relief from their symptoms after consuming cannabis. With medical cannabis now legalized in states all over the country, hopefully more courageous professors and universities will be allowed to continue the research, so patients can get the most out of one of nature’s most powerful medicines.