“In the present decade, cannabis abuse has grown more rapidly than cocaine and opiate abuse.”
- World Health Organization
This past summer, Dr. Debbie Thompson, Radia Esop and Vivian Yih from Fraser Health Authority delivered informative presentations on cannabis use and the associated risks related to mental illness.
With the legalization of cannabis looming there are some important things to keep in mind. Currently, there is not a significant amount of credible research that identifies the positive effects of cannabis use for people with mental illness. Cannabis use may also have harmful consequences for people with mental illness or for those susceptible to developing a mental illness.
Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances with more than 100 different compounds that fall under the category of cannaboids. Two of the more widely known subclasses are cannabidiols (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).
CBD works most effectively when THC is also present. Each strain of cannabis has its own content ratio of CBD to THC. Various strains of cannabis and cannabis products with high CBD content have been shown to increase appetite in patients on chemotherapy, promote relaxation and reduce chronic pain. It is hailed as a therapeutic drug and is useful for people with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV. Some research has shown that CBD can work as an anti-psychotic, while THC acts as a psychoactive. However, the use of cannabis by people with serious mental illness yield mixed results and the therapeutic effects one can experience may depend on the ratio of CBD to THC.
Dr. Thompson and her team of psychopharmacologists conducted an informal study where they visited various dispensaries to determine the CBD to THC ratios in the products currently available. Unfortunately, no dispensaries were 100% certain of the CBD to THC content in their products.
When using cannabis for medical purposes, it is important to take into account the risks. Be aware that use of cannabis can trigger:
• Acute Psychosis
• Possible earlier onset of schizophrenia in youth
• Worsening in pre-existing anxiety, bi-polar disorder and depression
For other short-term and long-term effects, visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827335/
Tips on how you can keep yourself safe while using cannabis:
• Consult a doctor to see if cannabis use is right for you
• Discuss with your doctor why you are seeking cannabis use
• Discuss with your doctor the medications you are currently taking and for what purpose
• Know if there is a history of serious mental illness (i.e. schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and/or severe depression) in your family
• Obtain cannabis from a licensed producer: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/ ... poses.html
• Make sure the product you are using has proper labeling, dosage descriptions and THC/CBD ratio content information.
• Know the differences in consumption and how long they take to show effects
• Smoking cannabis can be as harmful as smoking tobacco. Oral usage is recommended over inhalation because the effects are felt over a longer period of time. However, it is common for people to overdose because they are not aware that it has a longer onset time. (i.e. People take a higher dose because they do not experience a buzz immediately and think that they didn’t take enough.)
• Avoid driving or engaging in dangerous, sensitive work when you’re impaired
• Avoid using cannabis when you’re pregnant or breast feeding
Here are some useful resources for more information on cannabis.