Cannabis and mental health – What is the Evidence?

29th April 2020

While so much debate is going on about the effects of cannabis on your physical fitness, the mental health field was not discussed so much in recent years. That is probably because all expert psychologists were busy trying to figure out how reality shows and violent video games affect our mental state. Now, the time has come for everybody to make case studies and give expert opinions on how the plant could improve or mess with our minds.

How does cannabis work?

Have you ever heard of Anandamide? This is the neurotransmitter that is accidentally responsible for why people love to use cannabis so much. This chemical compound is apparently very important because it is a crucial ingredient that enables many processes in our brain to take place.

Endocannabinoid receptors in our body and brain recognize this substance and are activated by it, which facilitates many crucial body functions and sensations like memory, appetite control, or even pain control. This is all great, but what does it have to do with cannabis?

It turns out that the primary phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant – THC – is very similar to Anandamide when it comes to its molecular structure. So, once cannabis compounds get into the body, these receptors greet THC like an old friend. THC is treated in the same way as Anandamide, and it all feels the same to them. Both substances produce pleasant sensations that we are familiar with.

AskGrowers take a look at the effects of cannabis components in more detail.

What are the pleasant effects of cannabis?

Thanks to this molecular coincidence, exposure to cannabis often induces feelings of joy, blissfulness, and the general state that most people describe as being very High. It is a calm state associated with euphoria, stress relief, and a sudden craving for chocolate…

Cannabis elevates one’s senses, which explains why watching movies while smoking cannabis feels like wearing 3D movie glasses. Sounds and colours seem richer and more vibrant, which can make your surroundings feel more pleasant.

Some people report a significant effect in pain reduction, which is consistent with some of the anandamide’s main functions. This is all good stuff, which is why we enjoy this plant so much, but some reported side effects may cause a certain discomfort for some users.

What are the unpleasant effects of cannabis?

We need to admit that indulging extensively in virtually anything will make you feel a little sick, whether it is cannabis, chocolate, or mineral water. Too much of anything is not good, and there are limits to our body’s needs. We should acknowledge that this threshold value can vary from one individual to another, but everyone has that breaking point when they look themself in the mirror and says: “OK, that is enough for today.”

Moderate consumption is the key to extracting the most pleasure out of cannabis. Besides, when exposed to too much, the cannabinoid receptors become numb, and your body, which is now used to high doses of THC, demands more and more of it.

This can cause addiction, which is an unpleasant state of mind and body. Over-exposure to THC may also have some other side effects like memory loss, decreased motor skills, and increased anxiety. These side effects can, in some cases, affect your ability to do your job or, at the very least, mean you can’t watch horror movies while smoking… This is a loss because watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre while smoking cannabis is a hilarious experience.

Can cannabis affect my mental health?

The feeling of acute anxiety or paranoia is not a very pleasant one. We can all experience short bursts of stress or even prolonged periods of anxiety, but if one is constantly exposed to such stimuli, it can have a more negative impact on their wellbeing.

Those who endure these symptoms while enjoying cannabis are putting themselves in danger of creating a short circuit in their brain. The brain creates patterns of neural activity, and no one wants to feel paranoid or stressed all the time. Those who are prone to these kinds of side effects should consider consuming less or, if possible, no cannabis in order to reduce the risk of worsening any mental health conditions.

Some users report experiencing sleep deprivation or weight problems as side effects that can lead to further negative impacts on their mental health. Weight problems can affect one’s perceived image of himself and cause a lack of self-esteem, and insomnia can make one irritated or angry to the point where he can make some bad decisions.

All these conditions can be harmful; however, it is believed that only a small proportion of cannabis users experience such effects to a serious extent. According to Medicalxpress, most users do not experience any harmful side effects, and they mainly report the benefits of using cannabis in various ways.

Some studies show that medical cannabis could even help to treat insomnia. A new study of the effect of medical cannabis in insomnia was recently conducted in Australia. The results showed that medical cannabis can have a positive effect on patients with insomnia.

The effects of long term marijuana use

As we previously mentioned, extensive use of cannabis can exhaust your cannabinoid receptors to the point where they seem blocked and unable to effectively perform their job. In some cases, this may damage nerves in your brain. Studies have shown that adults who extensively smoked cannabis over an extended period had lower levels of dopamine in their system.

The same goes for one’s heart or lungs, which can be affected by smoke inhalation, just as with regular cigarette smokers.

What was that last side effect again? Oh yes, long-term memory loss. This is still a controversial claim because much more research needs to be done to support it. The majority of people begin to experience memory loss as they get older, so we will take this claim with a little reservation.

Overall, cannabis users should be urged to consume the plant responsibly and moderately. Like any herb, when it comes to cannabis and mental health, it may cause side-effects for some users, but many users report healing effects for a number of both mental and physical conditions.


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