Marijuana health benefits have been a topic of debate for years. It is thought to help patients with long-term, chronic pain, or those with terminal illnesses like cancer. A new medical study has suggested that rather than acting as a “gateway drug” to other, possibly more dangerous substances, marijuana could act as a safer substitute to other recreational drugs, or even certain prescribed drugs. The study has been met with mixed results.
Researchers who published the October 12th study in Clinical Psychology Review have suggested that “weed” may help with anxiety disorders, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They also ascertain that it has little effect on self-harm, or harm to others, and should not be used by those at risk for psychosis.
According to Medscape, the results of the study about using marijuana to treat other mental health issues has a wide variety of implications. There is certainly a potential for benefits, or for harms depending on the individual using it and any pre-existing medical conditions.
Associate professor of Psychology and lead author Zach Walsh, PhD, of the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, has a lengthy conversation about the study with Medscape Medical News.
Marijuana Health Benefits for Mental Health
For the study, Medscape said that researchers searched electronic databases for other, published studies from 1960 to 2015. They wanted to look at the therapeutic use of marijuana to treat a variety of addictions and psychiatric conditions. For comparison, they examined multiple other medical studies that related to cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP).
“There’s no question that cannabis is less harmful than opioids,” said Dr. Walsh, “Unfortunately, a lot of addiction treatment providers are still based on an abstinence rather than a harm reduction perspective.”
Walsh mentioned that harm reduction is not a new idea. He referenced other such examples like substituting Methadone for Heroin, or Nicotine for Tobacco. “These have been accepted and are not controversial,” Dr. Walsh said. He then added, “A lot of treatment facilities will say, ‘You have to stop smoking cannabis if you’re going to be here,’ you should be able to use medical cannabis while you’re trying to kick alcohol – it may even help.”
There are of course, many who would argue Dr. Walsh’s point adamantly. To claim that Methadone is a safe substitute for Heroin may sound ludicrous to many people; especially given the fact that many clinics for Methadone have been massive sources of controversy to neighborhoods that host them, and that many people die from Methadone use each year.
Marijuana Health Benefits – Other Findings
The study of marijuana use for mental health is reported to have shown no evidence that medical marijuana health benefits for back pain can interfere with treatment for alcohol addiction, or other addictions, according to Medscape.
One thing that Dr. Walsh noted was that although the study hinted that marijuana use for mental health could relieve anxiety, it also had panic-attacks as a side effect. He said, “my bet would be that a lot of the effect comes from reducing nightmares and improving sleep, but it could also reduce agitation and hypersensitivity during the day. There is certainly potential evidence that should be followed up with clinical trials.”
The research to date is not all positive. As they poured over other studies, they found other information that seemed to indicate that marijuana can worsen PTSD symptoms among veterans.