The lowdown on cannabis, CBD and mental health
Our mental health is very important, but easily forgotten as we cannot actually see it. Contrast this to our physical health, which we are always trying to improve through healthier diets and new exercises, and it’s apparent just how much our mental health gets marginalized. But unless our psychological foundations are sturdy, it can be difficult to live a fulfilling and happy life, as mental health disorders like anxiety and depression know exactly how to make us feel bad about ourselves.
And concerningly, mental health issues appear to be more and more prevalent. An estimated 300 million people suffer globally from depression, and the condition affects people from all over the world. In America, almost one in five of the adult population experience anxiety, an indication of just how common an ailment it is.
Anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs are out there, many of them working with receptors in the serotonin system. However, many of these pharmaceutical treatments have addictive potential, and can even cause side effects like depersonalization. Therefore, many choose natural alternatives such as plant-based medicine, and also talking therapies including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
But research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS) suggests the body has another network which can be targeted to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The 5-HT1A receptor in the serotonin system affects mood, and so does the CB1 receptor in the ECS – it’s possible that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabis molecule, influences both. Researchers have since been studying the CB1 receptor, in the hope of developing a treatment for anxiety and depression, sans the side effects.
Next, we’ll consider depression, anxiety and the possibilities of cannabinoid therapy in more depth.
Managing depression with CBD
Depression has proven so notorious because it is so difficult to effectively treat, without causing side effects that are as unhelpful as the first. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that have been used for many years may relieve the mental anguish, yet induce drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia and restlessness as a result. Moreover, the effectiveness of SSRIs has arguably diminished since their initial introduction in the 1980s.
But researchers can now look for depression treatments with new hopes after coming across the ECS. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid anandamide, which (among its many uses) binds with the CB1 receptor, is a strong, natural antidepressant that improves mood. If you have ever vigorously exercised and felt good about it after, that’s because of the release of anandamide into the brain. However, these feelings of enhanced mood are often short-lived due to the quick degradation of anandamide by the FAAH enzyme.
Unfortunately, this breakdown of anandamide sometimes goes into overdrive, and the body cannot create enough anandamide to replace the broken-down chemicals fast enough. This causes imbalance in the ECS and possible mood suppression. However, the CBD compound from cannabis can temporarily turn off the FAAH enzyme, rendering it unable to degrade anandamide. Increased levels of anandamide contribute to an improvement in mood.
Relieving anxiety with CBD
Anxiety causes a whole host of negative thoughts and thought processes that can make it very difficult to function normally. The ruminating, the worries and the constant worst-case scenario thinking that infiltrates the brain due to overactivity are stifling, and it seems that every single task requires a battle against one’s self to get it done.
As anxiety progresses – and worsens – over time, the nagging, negative comments that come from the mind’s internal voice can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, eroding self-esteem and self-confidence. Panic attacks may also become more frequent – these are typified by hyperventilation and a tightening of the stomach.
Calming an anxiety attack is not easy, and these stressful experiences can be incredibly embarrassing for a person, especially if they have social anxiety and are feeling troubled when around others. But by promoting gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitters by increasing the binding affinity of GABA-A receptors, CBD can efficiently smooth over the worst feelings of anxiousness.
Out of the many ways to consume CBD, anxiety is best handled by vaporizing CBD vape oil and e-liquid, as brain excitation and overthinking is reduced in just two or three minutes with this method. For those who endure anxiety attacks regularly and can anticipate when their mental stress is building, vaporizing allows them to suppress anxiety before it balloons into a full-blown attack.
In addition to treating anxiety, CBD has been found to reduce cortisol levels which alleviates stress throughout the body. CBD has a myriad of relaxing therapeutic properties that help to release all kinds of mental discomfort. While vaporizing is the preferred way to take CBD, one could also self-medicate with CBD oil or CBD gummy bears to enjoy more sustained relief. This could be better for patients who constantly suffer from anxiety that stays at a moderate, but consistent intensity.
Addressing cannabis scare stories
There’s a lot of misinformation still doing the rounds about the cannabis plant, although we shouldn’t be surprised given the long-term banning of the herb. But fears that mental health disorders could be triggered by taking “cannabis” must be put into perspective. It is possible that the psychoactive effects of THC could set off anxiety and paranoia, but likely only if it’s already pre-existing. Moreover, THC products are not even recommended for anxiety, and THC is not present in either CBD-isolate or full-spectrum CBD products.
If you are keen to take cannabis recreationally, but are concerned about anxiety or paranoia, then try to make sure that your set and setting is as comfortable as possible beforehand. Are you happy with the people you’re tripping with? Are you familiar with your surroundings? Take care of these potential issues and you can expect a pleasant experience. And to be on the safe side, just keep some CBD on hand if you need to mitigate the psychoactive effects.
Cannabis in regard to mental health has been talked about for decades, if not centuries, and modern-day science paints a complex picture. But importantly, non-psychoactive CBD products look to provide genuine relief for patients with multiple mental health disorders.
"Time spent with cats is never wasted." ~ Sigmund Freud