The medicinal value of cannabis for treating a variety of health conditions has led to more than half of the United States legalizing cannabis in some form. The medical conditions that cannabis can be legally prescribed for are varied – everything from epilepsy to cancer.
The cannabinoids in cannabis are almost identical to the ones that occur naturally in our bodies. They’re so alike that it’s known as the endocannabinoid system, after the cannabis plant which led to its discovery. These cannabinoids produce physical effects, like reducing inflammation or nausea. But they also have mental effects. After all, the endocannabinoid system controls our moods and emotions as much as it does our pain receptors and motor movements.
Due to heavily restricted research opportunities, the benefits of cannabis for mental health are only now being discovered and legitimized by the medical community. They’re finding out what regular cannabis users have known all along. Cannabis is beneficial to mental health in a variety of ways.
- Reduce anxiety and stress.
When asked why they use cannabis, the majority of respondents typically answer, “Stress!” The cannabinoids in cannabis affect the brain just like the ones that occur naturally in our bodies. As it turns out, the more cannabinoids, the less anxiety and better your mood. Cannabis also provides significant physical effects; it relieves pain, releases tension in the muscles and reduces inflammation. These physical changes translate into mood changes. When our bodies are relaxed and pain-free, our minds naturally are too.
- Relieve racing and obsessive thoughts.
Have you ever had a conversation or altercation with someone that you just couldn’t stop replaying in your mind? No matter how hard you try, you find yourself obsessing about what they said, how they said it and what you said or should have said or done in return. It can be maddening! These types of obsessive or racing thoughts, where you just can’t turn off your mind, can have serious consequences.
Fixation on a negative experience causes your body to relive the physically uncomfortable sensations of anger, shame, fear or whatever adverse emotions are associated with it. Not only is your mind being tortured, but your body is as well, flooded with constant adrenaline surges and stress hormones. Cannabis provides relief by allowing the mind to experience the present instead of dwelling in the past. Mental relaxation and euphoria are hallmarks of cannabis. You may find your mind opens up enough to find alternative solutions or perspectives to your situation.
- Facilitate communication and connection.
Many people with mental health issues experience loneliness and a lack of connection with others. Isolation can lead to many negative issues, both mental and physical. Isolated people experience higher blood pressure, have lower immune systems and experience more illness and disease. They’re more prone to depression and higher suicide risks.
Cannabis can be a wonderfully social activity. Smoking a bowl with a group, or sharing a joint while on a walk with a friend can allow you to forget about anxiety and enjoy spontaneous conversation. The relaxing effects of cannabis on the mind and body make it easier to open up and engage with other people. Even the symbolic connection of sharing cannabis with others can produce a feeling of connectivity and community without conversation.
Trauma victims can often benefit from connection with others as well as sharing their thoughts and feelings about their experiences. Cannabis can help those who have difficulty talking about tough subjects relax enough to open up to someone you trust.
- Promote healthy sleep.
Most medical studies agree that 7 to 9 hours of sleep is what the human body requires to function optimally. How many people do you know who regularly get that number? More than 60 million people experience sleep disorders that drastically impact their lives. Lack of sleep greatly reduces the function of our minds and bodies. Lack of sleep is responsible for poor motor function and slow brain function; it certainly factors into many grievous accidents.
To get relief, people turn to many things – OTC sleep aids, prescription drugs, alcohol and illicit drugs. Cannabis can be a natural, healthy solution that allows the mind and body to relax enough to fall asleep. It can help you stay asleep too. Edibles take longer to take effect but last longer. Taking an indica edible before bed is likely to provide a deep, restful sleep. Some cannabis strains are also bronchodilators, opening the airways and improving breathing which benefits those suffering from sleep apnea. Best of all, there’s no risk of overdose. One thing to note – which could be a plus or minus – cannabis inhibits REM sleep. Regular cannabis users will find dreaming significantly reduced.
- Regulate mood and emotions.
Irritability and mood swings are common mental health issues that arise from a variety of conditions. Those suffering from PTSD, for example, may experience anger bursts or overreaction to minor stimuli. Cannabis can help take the edge off irritability and add a few seconds to mental processing time; enough to make the difference between a blow-up or cool-down. As mentioned above, cannabinoids occur naturally in our brains and regulate mood and emotion. By introducing more cannabinoids to the brain through cannabis, you can reduce anxiety and improve your mood.