Marijuana as a treatment for mental health conditions
By Richard Shrubb
The Irish Examiner reported on the 6th April 2018 that psychiatrist Dr Michael Sadlier said to the Irish Medical Organisation conference, “It is a compound that I would love to be banished from the planet. It does more damage to humans than any drug that is out there.”
I’m going to stick my neck out as a former mental health journalist and say that given the growing evidence around cannabis and mental health, he’s not the first psychiatrist who may be in need of the medicine he prescribes to his patients.
Let’s have a brief dance through some of the mental illnesses that are currently treated with using brain deadening, life-shortening pharmaceutical treatments, and that cannabis may one day be used to replace should a rational approach be taken toward this medicinal weed.
Marijuana and its extracts can treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and even schizophrenia. Hardly something that ‘does more damage to humans than any drug’.
Bipolar disorder is characterised by wild mood swings. I have a type of it – at 43 I hate having mood swings as bad as my three-year-old daughter but that’s life in a blue suit. Anyway, a 2016 paper in the leading medical research journal PLoS ONE found, “Findings suggest that for some bipolar patients, marijuana may result in partial alleviation of clinical symptoms. Moreover, this improvement is not at the expense of additional cognitive impairment.”
No matter how much pharmaceutical companies hype their latest molecules, you will never have any psychiatric medication with 100% alleviation of symptoms. In my experience and understanding from studying medication, the only way to achieve that is to switch the brain off. Many do that by suicide even when medicated.
You Google ‘cannabis and depression’ and by far the biggest body of research has been into how it causes depression not how it treats the condition. Why? Governments pay scientists to tell them what they want to hear. A scientist will be lucky to get a penny from a funder to find out how cannabis can be used to treat depression yet will see cash hitting them by the busload if they wanted to ‘prove cannabis causes depression’.
There have been a few lucky scientists out there to get their hands on cash to show that it is an effective treatment. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, people had brain scans while on a placebo or after having THC administered on them. They were shown ‘happy pictures’ and ‘unhappy pictures’. The research found, “Performance and brain activity during matching of stimuli with a negative (‘fearful faces’) or a positive content (‘happy faces’) were assessed after placebo and THC administration. After THC administration, performance accuracy was decreased for stimuli with a negative but not for stimuli with a positive emotional content.”
Anxiety and paranoia are issues that are widely associated with cannabis. This is why you will never see me smoking weed in the UK as I get awful paranoia even without the stuff – I have paranoid schizophrenia.
However, lower THC and higher CBD strains have been shown to help tackle anxiety. High Times reported in August last year, “The best way to discover which strain is more likely to subside your anxiety is by doing your own research. As mentioned, everyone reacts to marijuana differently. And there are a lot of different factors that go into each strain. Some are more prone to helping those with insomnia, while others have the potential of alleviating depression. Listed below are just a few strain options for you to look into.
- Granddaddy Purple (Indica) – For general anxiety.
- Jack Herer (Sativa) – For general anxiety.
- Girl Scout Cookies (Hybrid) – For PTSD.
- Strawberry Cough (Sativa) – For social anxiety.”
Getting your hands on Girl Scout Cookies or Granddaddy Purple here in the UK is rather difficult given that our government only allows Big Pharma to grow it to put in their dodgy preparations and not normal people to explore the botanical world themselves. If you are lucky enough to lay your mitts on some seeds from the Netherlands or California without being arrested at any stage from importing the seeds to testing the product then good luck…
I started out as a cannabis writer because I was blown away by the evidence that the different cannabinoids and terpenes in marijuana can treat conditions that traditionally are held to be ‘caused by’ it. I was looking for a body of research being done by Imperial College London at the moment but instead found this June 2017 report in Medical News Today: “We found that CBD was able to restore recognition and working memory, as well as social behaviour to normal levels. These findings are interesting because they suggest that CBD may be able to treat some of the symptoms of schizophrenia that are seemingly resistant to existing medications. In addition, CBD treatment did not alter body weight or food intake, which are common side effects of antipsychotic drug treatment”.
In addition, I have been told by a leading research psychiatrist that while she was in Arizona (she’s now in Colorado having been chased out by a conservative faction in her university) she was allowing voice hearing schizophrenics to get their AZ medical marijuana cards and to use weed to dull the voices in their heads. High CBD strains do that.
Go carefully. Not everyone (including myself) will respond well to weed. I for one can’t touch it for all sorts of reasons. Saying that, the research is emerging that cannabis is nowhere near as bad as the deranged doctor above you will have you believe. Cannabis could well be a very good treatment for mental illnesses of all kinds. Stay safe folks!
Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at www.richardshrubb.com for more about what he does.