Marijuana and mental health: why it's complicated

Published by: Christopher Fichtner, MD and Howard Moss, MD
Published: May 31, 2017
Original Article:

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Although polls consistently show that the population of Canada at large supports the use of marijuana for medical purposes, when it comes to mental health, things get a lot murkier. This is largely owing to a lack of studies into how it can positively affect certain mental illnesses (Israel has been taking the lead on studies into it's effects on patients with dementia and Alzheimer's - CLICK HERE TO READ MORE).

However, another major culprit is "the chicken and the egg". Many patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other similar disorders have a record of self medicating with marijuana (REF: Mental Health America). Although they maintain that the use of marijuana helps ease their symptoms, many doctors are unsure as to whether it's helping or making symptoms worse. This uncertainty combined with a lack of scientific data to support any findings makes doctors and psychiatrists very hesitant to turn to marijuana to relieve symptoms of mental illness. 

One of the areas with the most anectodatal evidence is PTSD. Again, scientific evidence is lacking owing to few studies into the question, however many with PTSD, including a significant number of soldiers, claim that marijuana has had an overall positive impact on their symptoms. These cases are so abundant that veterans groups in the United States and Canada are working to gain easier access to marijuana for soldiers with PTSD.

The legalization of marijuana will open the doors in Canada for more comprehensive studies into the field of marijuana's effects on mental health. Until then, we will continue to see caution from the psychiatric community in the use of marijuana and CBD to help ease the symptoms of mental health issues.