November 13, 2019/Brain & Nervous System

Can Marijuana Help Your Mental Health?

No real data supporting self-medicating with cannabis

Cannubus buds being placed into medicine jar

These days it seems like everyone from celebrities to your next-door neighbor are all boasting about the positive results of marijuana on their mental health.

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Likely you’ve heard a story about medicinal marijuana or marijuana-derived products (like CBD) curing someone’s anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder. But does marijuana actually help your mental health?

According to one study – the evidence is lacking.

Psychiatrist Brian Barnett, MD, did not take part in the study, but says using medicinal marijuana, or related products, to treat mental health conditions cannot be justified based on current research.

“There was pretty low grade evidence for marijuana for treatment of anxiety disorders,” explains Dr. Barnett. “The study looked at the use of marijuana for the treatment of other psychiatric disorders and found no compelling evidence at this point that marijuana, or any of its derivatives, are effective treatments for things such as depression, ADHD, Tourette syndrome or PTSD.”

About the data

Researchers reviewed 83 studies looking at medicinal marijuana, synthetic marijuana and marijuana-derived products.They studied the products’ impact on six mental health conditions – depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis.

The study did not find compelling evidence for using any type of marijuana for mental health treatment.

The authors noted the studies reviewed were small and low-quality.

Dr. Barnett believes high-quality research is needed to determine whether marijuana and related products are effective (and safe) to treat mental health problems.

In the meantime, he says people should be aware of the known risks associated with marijuana.

“Although we don’t know a lot about the potential health benefits, we do know about risks which include addiction,” says Dr. Barnett. “We’ve seen increases in the numbers of individuals coming to the emergency room as marijuana is becoming legalized in various contexts. We also know marijuana is becoming stronger in terms of THC content than it was in the past, which can make for more adverse reactions.”

Dr. Barnett says it’s important to talk to a doctor before self-treating with marijuana, or products derived from marijuana, because there are certain conditions and medications it can interact with.

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