In the 1970s, the DEA categorized cannabis with the strictest designation possible – the Schedule 1 Drug. This meant that cannabis had a high potential for abuse, and no recognized medical uses, making it completely illegal. So illegal, in fact, that was nearly impossible for researchers to study the plant, setting back any research that would otherwise attest to the plant’s health beneficial effects.
Decades and many legalization efforts later, the medical and therapeutic benefits of cannabis are finally acknowledged, and many states and nations legalized medical use. Some states took things further and even legalized the recreational use of marijuana. But with the ongoing legalization across the US and the globe, cannabis and mental health becomes an important subject of scientific research.
Despite the ongoing scientific research attesting to marijuana’s safety, medical and therapeutic benefits, there’s still a lot we don’t know about cannabis. The medical recognition about its health benefits doesn’t answer the question: does cannabis have detrimental effects on our mental health? Read through our article to find out.
How cannabis affects our brain?
Cannabis, as a plant, contains over 400 compounds and over one hundred cannabinoids that exhibit different effects on the body. The most notable cannabinoids are the plant’s primary psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and its non-psychoactive ingredient, the cannabidiol (CBD). These cannabinoids affect the body’s endocannabinoid system and its receptors, and as we stated above, exhibit different effects.
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating many body processes, like communication between cells, memory, appetite, immune response, etc. More precisely, as a regulator of certain bodily functions and communication between cells, the endocannabinoid system serves as a modulator of neural signals. In other words, it amplifies some, and diminishes other signals your neurons use to communicate.
Introducing cannabis to the cannabinoid system affects the endocannabinoid system’s workings, slowing down its signaling abilities. For example, it diminishes the immune response, attributing cannabis with good anti-inflammatory properties. It may also slow down the signal that inhibits smells – making them more intense. That, and the effect cannabinoids have on appetite, is why food looks and smells so good when you’re under the effects of cannabis.
Our bodies use endocannabinoids in a specific order and in a particular manner. Introducing THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive component disrupts that order by binding to the endocannabinoid receptors. But unlike endocannabinoids themselves, that bind in a specific order, and for a particular reason, THC binds to the receptors throughout the entire endocannabinoid system. And since every person’s different, the endocannabinoid system’s reaction to cannabis also varies from person to person.
Cannabis and Mental Health
Using cannabis is mostly a relaxing experience. Research has shown that cannabis relieves pain, helps fight depression, cancer, regulates seizures, alleviates anxiety and PTSD symptoms, etc. But there are two sides to every coin, or in this case, leaf and bud.
Despite its medical benefits, the detrimental effects of marijuana on human mental health are long-known facts. However, the extent of these damaging effects is still unknown and whether the damage’s reversible. Still, researchers have linked several factors that contribute to the extensiveness of detrimental long-term effects cannabis has on mental health. Most notable of which is age.
In teenagers and kids, the endocannabinoid receptors are much more concentrated in the white matter than in older individuals. The white matter is involved in the brain’s ability to learn, memorize, control emotions, and communicate. Unfortunately, frequent marijuana use detrimentally affects the development of white matter tracts. This can further affect the brain’s ability to grow new neural connections, damaging long-term learning ability, problem-solving, and short-term memory.
Though some believe that this damage is reversible, there is no scientific research that would back up those claims. But things don’t end there.
Individuals over 25 years of age aren’t affected by the detrimental effects cannabis has on long-term learning ability and problem-solving. However, frequent recreational use can induce paranoid delusions and other cannabis-induced psychosis. These symptoms usually subside over time, along with the withdrawal symptoms, when an individual stops using cannabis.
Though cannabis use doesn’t cause physiological dependencies within the body, it might produce withdrawal symptoms upon quitting. These symptoms include mood changes, diminished appetite, irritability, headaches, loss of focus, increased depression, and stomach problems. Though they’re not life-threatening and don’t require medical attention, withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant.
However, withdrawal symptoms, along with the cannabis-induces psychosis, can be alleviated by detoxifying from cannabis. Detoxification is the body’s natural cleansing process that removes toxins and, in this case, residual THC from the body. Depending on how much cannabis you use, the detoxification process might take from several weeks to several months to complete.
Luckily, you can speed the process up by using specially formulated detoxification products that aid your body in expelling the toxins, as MedSignals.com commented. If you’re experiencing any withdrawal symptoms or wish to learn more about how to detox from weed, visit their website.
Unfortunately, though extremely rarely, the cannabis-induced psychosis doesn’t subside, but unmasks a persistent psychotic disorder. The appearance of these effects, though extremely rare, are highest among young adults. But since most psychotic disorders usually surface in young adults, it’s unclear whether or not cannabis use triggers them earlier, and would’ve they appear without marijuana use.
According to dozens, if not hundreds of scientific studies, cannabis has enormous medical potential when used in accordance with health guidelines. Medical cannabis is becoming more and more popular treatment method, and for a good reason.
However, though relaxing, long-term recreational use has the potential to cause or uncover mental health issues, especially in younger children, teens, and young adults. Unfortunately, we still don’t fully understand the effects cannabis has on our body, and until we do, we can hope that benefits outweigh the risks.