As laws and regulations around cannabis begin to ease in many US states and other parts of the world and cannabis becomes more accessible, it’s important to ensure that the general public has an accurate understanding of what this drug is capable of, especially in regard to mental health.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions that have been spread about cannabis over the years, and many people are misinformed regarding both the positive and negative aspects of cannabis’ effects on the brain. This guide will address some of the most common myths and provide some proper facts on cannabis and mental health.
Effects of Cannabis on the Brain
Before we look at any of the main myths, it’s first essential to outline how cannabis works in the brain and what it does to a person’s mind and mental state. Again, this is an area that is widely misunderstood, and it’s only by understanding the science of cannabis that you can begin to fully appreciate the medical potential and risks of this plant.
The way in which cannabis affects the body is by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is a complex cell-signaling system in the human body that helps to control many different aspects and bodily processes, from our hunger levels to our mood, memory, sleepiness, sensations of pain, immune responses, and so on.
When consumed, cannabinoids from the cannabis plant matter can interact with ECS receptors in the brain to trigger certain effects. For example, THC works in the brain to produce euphoric feelings in the nucleus accumbens, but can also trigger other parts of the brain, like the amygdala, cerebellum, and hippocampus, impacting things like mood and memory.
Myths and Misconceptions about Cannabis and Mental Health
Next, let’s bust some of the many myths surrounding cannabis and its effects on mental health and the mind in general.
Myth 1: Cannabis Can Cure Mental Illnesses
Like a lot of myths, there is a little truth to this, but it’s also not completely accurate. While cannabis is used as a treatment for people suffering from a range of mental illnesses and mental health problems, including anxiety, PTSD, and depression, it doesn’t necessarily ‘cure’ those illnesses.
Instead, cannabis products from a cannabis dispensary can be used to soothe and ease some of the symptoms associated with mental illnesses. For example, the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol, or CBD, has proven effective in terms of easing people’s feelings of stress or anxiety and helping them feel calmer.
Myth 2: Cannabis Is Completely Safe and Non-addictive
Many supporters of cannabis legislation have argued that the drug is ‘completely safe’ and suggested that it has no addictive properties. Again, this is not quite true. Cannabis, like almost any other substance, can be dangerous in certain situations and in large quantities. People may suffer unwanted and undesirable side effects due to cannabinoids like THC.
There are risks of paranoia, feelings of fear, loss of memory, coordination difficulties, slow reaction times, and other side effects associated with this drug, and these effects could cause people to hurt themselves or others. In addition, when consumed regularly and in large amounts, cannabis can certainly be addictive and may be hard to quit.
Myth 3: Cannabis Use Does Not Have Any Negative Impact on Mental Health
It would be ideal if cannabis had no possible risks or downsides when used to treat patients with mental health problems, but this is not the case. In reality, there are some risks of negative impacts to a person’s mental health from using cannabis, especially if they use too much, such as paranoia, fear, anxiety, and depression.
However, at the same time, when used appropriately and in the right amounts, with doctor supervision and guidance, cannabis use can provide many positive effects for a person’s mental health and has proven to be very beneficial for patients all over the world in terms of easing their stresses and anxieties.
Myth 4: Cannabis Is a Gateway Drug to Harder Drugs
Cannabis has often been talked about by critics as some kind of ‘gateway drug’, with some people arguing that it can quickly lead to users testing and becoming addicted to other, harder, and more dangerous drugs. In reality, there is very little evidence to suggest that this is the case.
Research and studies have shown that even though using or buying marijuana might lead some people to want to try other drugs, a lot of users simply use marijuana for its therapeutic benefits and have no interest in any other substances. Especially nowadays, with marijuana being more legally accessible for many people, there’s less chance of individuals using it as a ‘gateway drug’.
The Reality of Cannabis and Mental Health
As we can see, the reality of cannabis and mental health is complicated, with ups and downs, pros and cons. On the one hand, there are some potential risks associated with using cannabis, and it could harm a person’s mental health if used irresponsibly. However, at the same time, it’s also a very powerful and helpful treatment option for stress, anxiety, and other issues.
There are both negative and positive factors to take into account, and it’s clear to see that when used correctly, with medical guidance and appropriate dosing, patients can experience life-changing positive effects from this drug.
There are a lot of myths and half-truths surrounding cannabis, and we hope that this guide has helped to dispel some of those misconceptions. Cannabis can help with mental health, but it isn’t a cure. It may become addictive, but only if used excessively, and it can provide big benefits but also has a risk of side effects.
Those considering using cannabis for their own mental health should take all of this into account and consult with experts and doctors to make the right choices for themselves and their minds.