Is cannabis good for my mental health?

Cannabis and mental health
At Benson Behavioral Health, a psychiatric practice serving Oregon, we are available for an initial evaluation within one week. Click HERE to request a consultation.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to provide medical advice.

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has a long history of use for recreational, medicinal, and spiritual purposes. In recent years, the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis in many regions including the states of Oregon and Washington has sparked debates about its potential benefits and risks. Many are concerned about the mental health impacts of cannabis use. As attitudes towards cannabis change, it is crucial to delve into the scientific evidence to better understand how cannabis can affect psychiatric and medical conditions.

What is in Cannabis?

Cannabis contains over 100 potentially medicinal chemicals called “cannabinoids,” but the two most well-known and studied compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with feeling “high” when using cannabis, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has gained attention for its potential therapeutic properties.

What are the potential psychiatric or mental health benefits of cannabis?

Some proponents argue that cannabis can have positive effects on mental health. CBD has been investigated for its potential to alleviate anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, and some studies have shown promising results. (A caveat: the daily doses of CBD used in research studies are often as high as 100-800mg per day which may be prohibitively expensive.) Additionally, cannabis use has been linked to increased creativity and relaxation.

What are the potential medical benefits of cannabis?

In medical settings, cannabis is often prescribed to help manage conditions including chronic pain. Many providers also recommend it for symptomatic relief of neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

What are the potential negative mental health effects of cannabis?

  1. Anxiety and Paranoia: High doses of THC can lead to increased anxiety and paranoia, particularly in susceptible individuals.
  2. Mania: Heavy use of cannabis with high THC content has also been associated with inducing or exacerbating the manic phase of bipolar disorder
  3. Psychosis: Research suggests that cannabis use, especially among those with a predisposition to psychotic disorders, may trigger or worsen conditions like schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.
  4. Memory and Cognitive Impairment: Frequent and long-term cannabis use, particularly during adolescence, has been linked to cognitive impairments, such as memory deficits and decreased attention span.
  5. Dependence and Addiction: Regular cannabis use can lead to dependence, with individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to quit. These symptoms are not physically dangerous like withdrawal from alcohol or sedatives. You can become addicted to cannabis, though most users do not.

Is cannabis likely to harm me?

The impact of cannabis on mental health can vary significantly based on individual vulnerability and the dose consumed. Factors like a personal or family history of mental health issues including recurrent depressive episodes, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia as well as co-occurring substance abuse can increase the likelihood of experiencing adverse mental health effects.

What are the maximum recommended daily doses of THC?

Minimal formal medical guidance on this subject exists. One “medical expert consensus” article suggested an beginning at 2.5mg THC per day and titrating upward to an absolute maximum dose of 40mg per day for the treatment of pain conditions. It is extremely difficult to accurately dose drugs that are smoked or inhaled, but the following are very rough estimates of the average ingested THC content of various forms of cannabis:

  • Cigarette (“joint”): ~4mg THC/”puff”
  • Vaporizer (oil): ~4mg THC/”puff”
  • Pipe (“bowl”): ~12mg THC/”puff”
  • Water pipe (“bong”): ~30mg THC/’hit”
  • Concentrate (“dabs,” “wax”): ~20mg THC/”hit”
  • Vaporizer (dry flower): ~10mg THC/”hit”
  • Edible: varies

What do I need to know about high-THC cannabis strains?

The THC:CBD ratio in the cannabis product can also influence its impact. High-CBD strains may have fewer adverse mental health effects, while high-THC strains can increase the risks.

Summary

Cannabis clearly holds promise as a potential therapeutic option for certain mental health conditions, its negative impacts should not be overlooked, especially when used heavily or by vulnerable individuals.

If you are considering using cannabis for mental health, recreational, or medical reasons, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances. More research is needed to fully understand the effects of cannabis.

At Benson Behavioral Health, a psychiatric practice serving Oregon, we are available for an initial evaluation within one week. Click the buttons below to request a consultation.