With the spread of medical marijuana as a treatment for mental illness, people are finding themselves in the predicament of having to speak to their mental health professionals about their medicine.
Most psychiatrists don’t have training in the use of medical marijuana, even for common illnesses like anxiety. Part of this has to do with a lack of knowledge concerning not only pot and mental illness, but mental health as a whole. The government spends less than the $2 billion yearly DEA budget on mental health management, which is more focused on crisis stabilization than it is on making therapy or psychiatry more readily available to the 18.2% of Americans suffering from mental illness. It’s widely accepted that the government is simply not permitting enough studies concerning the question of cannabis and mental illness.
The other part of this issue has to do with the majority of mental health professionals themselves. Whenever pot is brought up, they generally only want to discuss it in the context of drug use. For people who use the plant to medicate this can be discouraging and frustrating. Like any other health professionals, therapists and psychiatrists in states where medical marijuana exists should be up to date on what research has been done.
Telling your doctor or therapist about medical marijuana as a treatment for depression or anxiety can be frustrating.
It’s always a tossup as to whether you’ll be able to find a therapist with whom you click, let alone someone who is informed about and pro-marijuana. If having a therapist who doesn’t support marijuana is very important to you, it’s best to broach the subject as soon as you feel comfortable. Therapists generally ask if you’re on any medication for your condition, and you can always use that opportunity to tell them that you’re taking medicinal marijuana. Worst case scenario? You try a different therapist. But the best case scenario is that you find someone who is knowledgeable and can actually offer to aid your mental health with both therapy and an informed perspective on marijuana.
The important thing is that when it comes to therapy, it’s most helpful if you’re just completely honest. That might involve being uncomfortable or talking about things that you don’t want to talk about. But in order for therapy to work the therapist has to see the gritty nooks and crannies of your life. So you have to be open to confronting reality, which may involve discussing even the taboo medications that you’re on. It might feel in a sense like admitting to your parents that you smoke weed, but remember that your therapist is there to help you and shouldn’t be an oppositional force when it comes to your decisions.
It’s not as though therapists should necessarily agree in a blanket manner with the use of marijuana, but wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to meet with someone who knows the best strains to help with your mental health? It might take longer for psychiatrists to jump onboard, even though some of the ones I’ve seen have been rather pro-plant, but for therapists who are open to adjunctive or holistic therapies weed-based treatments might become a reality.
People are waiting for treatment while mental health-based medical marijuana treatment sits in strange limbo. It’s being prescribed but not managed, dispensed but not studied. It clearly helps some people but doctors don’t know why or what to do about it. While regular doctors are catching on, especially when it comes to CBD, mental health professionals—as has traditionally been the case in the field—are lagging behind. There is plenty to improve on in our mental health system; medical marijuana is certainly part of the revolution that needs to occur within that sector—and soon.