THE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CANNABIS AND MENTAL HEALTH
By Dr. Michele Ross
As the national dialogue surrounding cannabis continues to shift in favor of legalization, public knowledge of the plant’s health and wellness benefits is spreading, with many patients of mental illness discovering the potential of cannabis to relieve psychological distress and restore their ability to function in day-to-day life.
Although research has been limited due to the plant’s federally illegal status, both formal studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that cannabis can serve as an important part of a wellness and self-care regimen, and the science behind its valuable biological role is increasingly well-documented.
Understanding the potential of marijuana to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and PTSD first requires an introduction to the endocannabinoid system: The communication network comprised of receptors and neurotransmitters that play a major part in maintaining our body’s natural processes. Every bit as important as our immune or digestive systems, the endocannabinoid system is involved in everything from managing pain, to promoting sleep, to regulating stress. When the network is out of whack–causing what is sometimes known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED)–supplementing with cannabinoids, beneficial compounds found within the cannabis plant, can help the body return to homeostasis and resume healthy function.