Medical marijuana is marketed to the masses as an alternative medication for mental health problems and moderate-to-severe pain. Instead of taking a medication for anxiety, for example, you could eat an edible. Instead of dealing with the ups and downs of PTSD, you could smoke a joint. And instead of taking opiates for pain, you can take a hit off your vaporizer.
But does it work? Can it alleviate the worst symptoms of depression and anxiety? How does medical marijuana affect our mental health?
The Problem With Current Research
It has been reported that close to 3 million Americans use marijuana legally as a medication. While it remains a popular method to treat various health problems, scientists have been slow to fully research the subject. There is a flaw in the process. The results of each study always depend on the approach, or situational bias, of the researchers.
When marijuana is viewed through the lens of a street drug, the findings are negative and not supportive of use. On the other hand, when marijuana is approached as a medication, the results are quite the opposite. Research on it as a medication suggests that people, in general, have decided that marijuana helps their mental health and increases their quality of life.
The clearest information comes from the people who self-report on how medical marijuana effects them psychologically. Patient Reported Outcomes, or PROs, are free from a doctor’s subjective point of view, and researchers can immediately concentrate on how the medication effects a person’s quality of life. We are our own best advocates.
Pros and Cons: Marijuana for Mental Health
PRO studies, such as those completed by MIND, have found that patients report immediate and dramatic help in reducing their anxiety, increasing their cognitive activities, and lessening the severity of their symptoms for depression and PTSD. Legal users have reported a reduction in the medications that they take every day to control these problems, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants. Marijuana may decrease inflammation in an aging brain, helping to prevent memory loss.
The secret seems to be a person’s individual approach to marijuana. Someone who uses it only to get high isn’t thinking of their mental health when they imbibe. If you go into it looking to hide from your emotions and to dull your senses, then it will not help your mental health. But taking it to calm your mind, decrease your anxiety, and lift your mood enough to work through an issue is an ideal attitude to have. This approach can do wonders for you, psychologically.
Marijuana can be good for your mental health. The trick is to treat marijuana as a medication meant to help you, instead of an illegal drug that only causes damage. Take the stigma away.
Just Another Medication
When someone uses marijuana to hide their emotions, they don’t realize when these feelings worsen. They check their self-awareness at the door. Marijuana is used as a simple avoidance tactic, but the memories will still be there when the drug wears off. And they can come back with a punch, increasing your depression or anxiety as a result.
Using marijuana as a medication can lift your mood, raise positive emotions, and take the sting out of psychological pain. It enhances serotonin levels, like an anti-depressant, and interacts with cannabinoid receptors, decreasing pain and anxiety. The side effects are minimal, and it’s easy to use. For the majority of people, it is neither a gateway drug, nor is it especially addictive. It’s just another medication.
The self-aware and mindful use of medical marijuana can be a great boost for your mental health and your quality of life.