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Beneficial or harmful? The controversy surrounding the effects of cannabis on mental health.
The complexity of cannabis presents great potential as a medicine to treat a variety of ailments, which is exciting news. However, there is a gap between the enthusiasm generated by the hype and the scientific research to back it up, which can raise concerns.
Cannabis is neither good nor bad in itself, and in fact, it has been highly stigmatized for many years, perhaps unfairly or out of ignorance of the plant itself.
Therefore, it is important to understand its possible effects on mental health, both positive and negative. There is no better weapon than education, and knowing what you consume is a way to be prepared and informed about its effects.
Cannabis contains more than 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids, the most known being CBD and THC.
Cannabinoids interact with our own endocannabinoid system, binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body to produce a variety of effects.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body but are found in the greatest quantity in the brain, central nervous system, and immune system. When cannabinoids bind to these receptors, they can produce a variety of effects, which depend on many factors:
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The effects of cannabis can be pleasant or unpleasant, and most of the symptoms usually last for a few hours.
The effects of cannabis can vary from person to person, depending on the following:
The positive effects of cannabis are usually associated with feelings of joy and mood enhancement. Some of the main effects are feeling of happiness and euphoria, reduced stress and anxiety, and produce a feeling of muscle relaxation.
Cannabinoids can also have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which can be useful in the treatment of pain. Cannabis can increase appetite, aka the munchies.
It is important to note that cannabis can also produce unwanted side effects, such as anxiety, paranoia, tachycardia, and dry mouth and eyes.
Cannabis can affect memory and the ability to concentrate, which can make it more difficult to follow a conversation or perform complex tasks. Cannabis can also alter the perception of time, color, and sound
At higher doses, cannabis can cause sedation, which can make you feel tired or sleepy. Cannabis in high doses or in highly concentrated products can cause:
The duration of the effects may depend on how the herb is taken and the amount consumed.
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There is evidence that cannabis can have a number of potential effects on mental health. For some people, regular cannabis use can produce positive mental health outcomes, such as improved mood, stress relief, improved concentration, and a feeling of relaxation.
However, research has also found that, for some people, prolonged or regular cannabis use may be associated with mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance use disorders.
It is therefore very important for each person to know themselves and recognize that the journey of cannabis use is personal and individual. We do not all react in the same way so each individual being must learn about themselves and their relationship with cannabis.
Many have used cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and stress.
However, it is important to clarify that the effects can vary from one strain to another. There are even strains that are known to help control anxiety while others can trigger it even generating attacks of psychosis.
Cannabis can have psychoactive effects and some studies have suggested that it can increase the risk of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
It is clear that everything depends on each person, as family history, tolerance to cannabis, the way of consumption and dozens of other factors can influence the effects on each individual.
There are no definitive results on whether cannabis causes or reduces anxiety or psychotic disorders or whether other factors are involved. So the evidence is still scarce and it is not possible to say for sure that cannabis acts as a coadjuvant in these cases or as a generator.
The reality is that cannabis cannot be pigeonholed as strictly helpful or harmful. On the contrary, the potential effects – the fun ones and the not-so-fun ones – need to be studied further to truly determine their impact on mental health.
One particular example is the treatment of depression, where science has established that the endocannabinoid system is relevant in mood regulation. Some people intuitively experience that cannabis can help alleviate their depressive symptoms.
However, there are currently no clinical trials that support the use of cannabis or specific cannabinoids to treat depressive disorders or in another scenario, there will be those who have used cannabis for depression and the effects have been counterproductive.
There are no total answers. It’s not simple and we don’t know when or if we will have them. What we do know is that more responsibly conducted studies are needed.
It is also necessary for each person to know that they are a world unto themselves and that their particular reaction to cannabis is not the rule, so it is essential to know yourself, learn about strains, and your own tolerance, and know how to identify what works and what may not work for you.
There are many variables that influence whether a person will experience increased or decreased anxiety or psychotic symptoms when ingesting cannabis, including the following:
As a result, there are no definitive answers as to whether cannabis use is beneficial or harmful to mental health, as the variables that can affect individual experience are numerous.
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