From the Editor: Cannabis and Psychiatric Health
Is cannabis a boon to individuals with behavioral health issues, or does it cause psychiatric symptoms in those with no history of mental illness? This either-or question is often posed, but it’s likely not one or the other. It’s possible—even probable—the answer is yes to both. Or no to both. As with so many issues related to cannabis, research—or the dearth of research—hasn’t yet resulted in clear picture. What’s known is that there are myriad concerns about the psychiatric impact of cannabis.
While many use cannabis for these conditions, studies have suggested that cannabis use may increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse or even induce psychosis in vulnerable populations, particularly those with certain genetic variations. And the special risks that may be faced by adolescents who use cannabis is a topic of widespread concern.
At the same time, researchers are looking at the role of cannabis therapeutics in psychiatry, with studies exploring whether cannabinoids may benefit people with PTSD, social phobia, and ADHD. Furthermore, there’s evidence to suggest that CBD may have potential as an antipsychotic; therapeutics involving even small amounts of THC have provided symptom improvement for individuals with schizophrenia. Cannabis use has been demonstrated to improve cognitive performance in some patients with a history of psychotic disorders but to impair learning, attention, and memory in others. There’s hope that cannabinoids may prove useful in attacking plaque formation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Still, experts stress that research in the field is nascent and remind clinicians of the potential risks—particularly those associated with therapy involving too much THC—to youth and individuals with a history of psychotic disease.
The only thing that’s clear is further studies are needed—but researchers are hamstrung by the current classification of cannabis. As research inches forward, and advocacy chips away at the roadblocks, we’ll report on the various issues related to cannabis and mental health. In this issue, pharmacist Mark D. Coggins looks at the broad view of the pros and cons of cannabis use for people with mental health issues.
Join in the conversation. Let us know what you think and share your experience using cannabinoid therapeutics in patients with behavioral health conditions.