World Mental Health Day

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How can medical cannabis help?

On World Mental Health Day, many things come to mind – How stigmatized mental health issues still are, and how we can adapt in a changing world to overcome mental health conditions and associated challenges.

Cannabis has been legalized in Canada for almost one year. This landmark allowed for cannabis and mental health to be discussed further… How can cannabis be used to reduce mental health issues? What mental health issues is cannabis not appropriate for? And many more questions. Mental health encompasses many different conditions but two of the most prevalent are depression and anxiety.

Cannabis and Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition involving excessive fear, emotional responses to stimulus and anticipation of negative or harmful events. Anxiety disorder is estimated to cost the Canadian system over 5 billion dollars annually from stress on emergency and health services, and the loss of employee productivity. This is not an uncommon condition. Symptoms like the feeling of impending doom, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, confusion, emotional instability and restlessness are often involved. Generalized anxiety tends to involve these symptoms throughout the day. Panic disorder would have these symptoms appear spontaneously, often-debilitating the subject and occasionally leading to loss of consciousness or fainting.

CBD has been shown to decrease the incidence of anxiety issues such as panic and generalized anxiety disorder. Many are utilizing CBD for everything involving performance anxiety to racing thoughts involved with insomnia from anxiety. THC’s intoxicating qualities can also be useful with the proper indica dominant strain. This provides immediate calm when used conservatively. Excessive use of THC can cause dysphoria including anxiety and paranoia. This highlights that the way the THC or CBD is consumed is important to the type of anxiety being felt. If someone suffers from panic attacks they should gravitate to faster acting forms of cannabis which can be inhaled. This would include smoking or vaporizing. The effects of these products can be felt within minutes. Those who have anxiety throughout the day will prefer a longer acting form of cannabis which include ingested oils or edible products. Both CBD and THC are available in dried or ingested forms.

Cannabis and Depression

Anxiety tends to be comorbid with depression, meaning these conditions tend to happen at the same time is certain people.

Depression can be triggered by stressful life events such as bereavement, relationship issues, addiction and employment troubles. But there is a genetic factor that is often overlooked. 15 to 25 per cent of the population suffer from depressive features, but that number jumps to 24 to 30 per cent in the first-degree relatives of people with depression. Females are more likely to report suffering from depression than males and only 10% of those diagnosed with depression are referred to psychiatrists. The gap in treatment may be due to systemic issues around how mental health is perceived in the public, but also a lack of education of the conditions.

Major depressive disorder is a common and pervasive mental health issue that impacts all elements of life. While a depressed mood is part of the condition, there are many other symptoms that are classified as depressive features. The major criteria will fall into changes in:

  • sleep
  • interest
  • guilt
  • energy
  • concentration
  • appetite
  • psychomotor agitation
  • suicidal ideation.

When diagnosing depression, the questioning will center around these areas. It is important that a medical professional diagnoses clinical depression rather than the individual themselves. Namely because depression can present differently in different people. For instance, two of the major criteria involving sleep and appetite can vary wildly and still be indicative of depression. Sleep can be drastically reduced, or the individual could be sleeping far too much. Appetite can also be greatly reduced or increased with depression. The use of cannabis products may need to be looked at more closely in these cases. Products for over-sleeping or under-sleeping will make preferred products indica or sativa based on their needs. Indica products for those with reduced sleep and sativa for those oversleeping. Loss of appetite can be easily solved with most THC containing products. THC is a powerful appetite stimulant because of the receptor distribution for THC in our hypothalamus. But those who tend to overeat with depression will need to reduce THC and balance it with cannabidiol (CBD) to reduce the side effect of hunger. Furthermore, the appetite stimulation can be offset with humulene in the terpene profile of their preferred product.

THC should not be considered a cure for depression but can be used to manage many of the symptoms involved. Using cannabis products is not a substitute for professional intervention, lifestyle changes or even medication in many cases but can be used in a suite of other treatments to reduce or eliminate mental health issues. Not every mental health condition makes one a candidate for medical cannabis, specifically bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. This only shows the need to consult experienced and qualified professionals when it comes to mental health, that includes using cannabis.

Ask us anything

Cannabis resource centers like 420 Clinic are available to provide advice, connect clients with medical professionals and counsel patients on what kind of cannabis products they should be using to alleviate their qualifying conditions. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues do not hesitate to give 420 Clinic a call.

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