Cannabis Use Doesn't Increase Risk For Anxiety Or Depression
With studies showing no link between cannabis use and an increased chance of developing mental health disorders could our much-loved plant actually provide a positive impact rather than a negative?
The stereotypical lethargy and lack of motivation that is often depicted alongside cannabis use may seem an unlikely partner for helping to combat mental health issues. In fact, the stigma surrounding cannabis use often splits opinions on the matter: claiming the natural plant may actually attribute to such mental disorders like depression, dulled energy, and motivation. With a recent study showing no discernible link between cannabis use and the increased risk of developing mood or anxiety disorders, could this fiercely debated topic finally be coming to a close?
What is Depression?
When you consider that The World Health Organization estimates 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, it can only be good news for the stereotype that surrounds cannabis use. Depression takes many forms and no two people are affected the same. Common symptoms range from a feeling of hopelessness to lethargy, as well as being unable to concentrate or suppress negative thoughts. These are only a handful of the symptoms of depression; it also comes in various forms, making its treatment incredibly difficult and unique to the individual suffering. With this latest research showing no link between cannabis and depression, could the cannabinoids within cannabis be used to actually help treat depression?
No Increased Risk of Anxiety Disorders
A study conducted this year by Columbia University took data from a sample of 35,000 US adults aged over 18 to establish what effect cannabis had through a 3-year period. The paper published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal observed the use of cannabis in its wave 1 (2001-2002) candidates to track prevalent psychiatric disorders at wave 2 (2004-2005). The summary of the research showed that “cannabis use was not associated with the increased risk of developing mood or anxiety disorders.”
Although this study did negate the link between cannabis use and developing mental disorders, it was not without another type of increased risk. This increased risk was the later addiction to alcohol, cannabis or other drugs, and whilst it confirmed that there was a link it could not ascertain the strength of the relationship between the two, merely that one existed. Another case of correlation, not causation.
Positive Impacts of Cannabis Use
Stress is one of the leading causes of depression, affecting the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system being the network of receptors in our bodies that interacts with cannabis, and helps to control appetite, pain sensation and mood. A study published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology journal found that when faced with negative stimuli, THC’s interaction with this system helped to reduce the accuracy of signals from the brain; therefore, limiting reactions to negative influences. When applied to positive stimuli they did not see the same reduction in accuracy and, in fact, saw an increase in emotional processing. It suggests cannabis and the way it manipulates the endocannabinoid system may be relevant to the future treatment of psychiatric disorders such as major depression.
Whilst it's encouraging to see another study championing the lack of negative impact cannabis has on mental disorders like depression, there is still a long way to go before we fully understand the complex interactions. We need to investigate the positive effects that the cannabis can have on the treatment of mental disorders, like depression, much more thoroughly. One thing is for certain, the veil and stigma that surrounds the use of cannabis is slowly being lifted as the positive impact it can have starts to be explored. Only time and further studies will tell how much benefits cannabis can truly have.
Written by: Lucas
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