Medical Cannabis and Your Mood
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
Many patients come to my office and ask if cannabis can help with their mood problems. The answer would most likely be yes. And there are many reasons for this, so let's start with the science behind this. To simplify in broad terms, we have something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is involved in all aspects of our bodies functioning, and has two types of receptors throughout our bodies, CB1 and CB2 respectively. In general the CB1 receptors can be thought of as focusing more on the mind and perception, and the CB2 receptor more focused on our physical body and immune system. CBD activates the CB2 receptor, and THC activates the CB1 receptor.
The cannabis plant has over four hundred compounds in it, including cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. Each part of this plant works together in a synergistic fashion known as the “entourage effect”, thereby enhancing the various medicinal and psychoactive properties With so many active compounds in the plant, the actions are very complex. Cannabis tends to operate on many different systems within the human body, including a variety of receptors associated with different neurotransmitter chemicals that are associated with mood and behavior. Our bodies produce their own cannabinoids called Anandamide and 2AG to activate these receptor sites, and these receptors can also be stimulated by plant-based cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant, known as phytocannabinoids.
One can say that the main function of the endocannabinoid system is to establish balance, or homeostasis, in the human body. In our brain, cannabinoids maintain homeostasis by preventing excessive neuronal activity through the regulation of our neurotransmitters. Simply stated, cannabis keeps our brain chemicals at balanced levels which appears to be related to our optimal functioning. Let's examine the toxic effects of stress on the human body. We have a system in our old brain that is responsible for something called fight or flight. In the caveman days this system had a function to help us stay alive, but today it is adversely affected by high levels of stress in our culture. The adrenergic system in our body has an adaptive function, and is meant to be turned on and off. However our excessively high and prolonged stress levels tend to keep this system stuck in the on position, which leads to many physiological and emotional problems.
In my clinical experience, I have found that most of the patients that come into my office benefit from using CBD alone. This is true for cases of anxiety, stress, sleeping problems, and mild depression. When I have clients that are dealing with physiological pain I find that CBD functions in the similar way to ibuprofen. It shares the same physiological pathways as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, acting as a cox-2 inhibitor. In cases of sleep problems, I find CBD useful when a person is anxious or has a restless mind that they cannot slow down. I must qualify however that I do not look at any medication, plant-based or pharmacological, as a replacement for learning effective coping skills and healthy lifestyle management.
When CBD does not adequately relieve a person's complaints, we then turn to using THC to alleviate them. I have found that in cases of anxiety and depression for example, when the symptoms increase to a point of intensity that is overwhelming to a person, the addition of THC becomes an effective treatment strategy. THC is able to help my patients quickly calm down and then be able to use the coping strategies that I teach them in our consultation sessions. With respect to chronic pain,, I have found that THC is a more effective tool than opiate pain medications for long term use. In both research and my clinical experience I have found that medical cannabis helps the patient redefine their pain as manageable, and this is true for both physical and emotional pain.
Experience has taught me that there is no magic bullet, no one medicine that's going to cure our psychological problems completely. Rather, true change in the way that we perceive and address problems is where that progress is made. When patients come into my care I ask for only two things, willingness and an open mind. An open mind to hear something new, and willingness to give it a try. I teach people about their problems in many different ways, offering them both education and insight, which leads them to see new choices that they will have. Whether using pharmacological medication, or plant-based medication, the goals are the same. My patients need to be educated and shown the big picture with respect to fixing their problems. Medications are only one piece of the puzzle. Lifestyle change requires us to address the way we think, feel, and choose to act. We must be mindful participants in this journey that we call Life, so pay attention and choose wisely!
To continue reading more by Dr. Lonny Weiss Psy.D. please visit www.drlonnycbd.com!