Treating depression & anxiety with cannabis
“I’ve treated hundreds of people now with cannabis for anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Jordan Tishler – a Harvard-trained emergency physician and expert in holistic care.
“I would say that it’s probably my number two diagnosis after chronic pain. I have lots of patients who report that they have been able to return to a very functional life when they hadn’t before.”
Dr. Tishler also points out that the therapeutic effects of cannabis can far outlast the actual consumption experience. When taking the medicine at night for instance, patients not only awake the next day feeling the effects of the treatment without the “high”, but are also less likely to suffer insomnia, which is a common characteristic of depression.
Is it that easy? Could cannabis indeed be the answer for the millions of people gripped by severe anxiety or depression?
Why patients are turning to cannabis
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there were a staggering 43.6 million American adults over the age of 18 diagnosed with mental illness in 2014 – that’s 18 percent of the U.S. population.
A significant portion of these people are facing various types of depression or anxiety, which are often treated with drugs like Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa or Cymbalta, Effexor, and Pristiq.
However, Dr. Tishler has observed how these treatments often lead to uneven results.
“[Pharmaceutical medications] still cause some amount of discomfort for patients,” Dr. Tishler says. “Most patients will report that their lows are less low than they were without medication, but often times they will report that the highs in life are just not as high and pleasurable as they remembered.”
And don’t forget the side effects – stomach discomfort, weight gain, and negative sexual side effects, to name a few – which leave patients often feeling as though the benefits of pharmaceutical drugs are outweighed by the drawbacks.
Many patients with depression and anxiety have thus explored other avenues to treat their conditions – and have found in cannabis a substance with surprisingly positive effects.
Enhancing our understanding of medical cannabis
The primary reason for cannabis’s wide-ranging efficacy as a therapeutic substance is the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is prevalent throughout our entire body including our organs, skin, bones – and the brain as well.
This system comprises the most important and most prevalent of all the receptors in the human body, and researchers now suspect that it is responsible for the balance of perhaps every metabolic process.
So when something goes wrong with our physical or mental health, the most effective treatments could start with bolstering the ECS with phytocannabinoids from cannabis.
This would explain why so many people are finding success in treating depression, anxiety, or PTSD with cannabis.
We must lift government restrictions on cannabis
Due to insane government restriction on cannabis research, limited studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of treating anxiety and depression with this plant.
“I think the studies on this aren’t there yet – the truth is, if you look in the psychiatric literature, nobody’s done a decent study on this,” says Dr. Tishler. “It’s complicated.”
It is complicated. And yet also quite simple. This scarcity in research is due to the fact that the Drug Enforcement Agency continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, which we now know for certain was for political purposes with zero basis in scientific evidence.
This Schedule I status classifies cannabis on par with other substances like ecstasy, LSD, and heroin – substances the DEA has classified as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
Adjusting our approach to cannabis
The low amount of research doesn’t mean we should avoid cannabis, especially with so many successful reports from people who’ve tried it – and the fact that humankind has been turning to this plant for at least 10,000 years.
More recently, preliminary studies at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Additions found cannabis treating chronic stress in animals.
Many other studies such as here and here have posited that depression may be treated by paying greater attention to the endocannabinoid system – and as restrictions continue to ease so that scientists and researchers can do their jobs, we will no doubt find ways to use cannabis with much greater precision, depending on a specific person’s needs.
Yet it is important to remember that most medicines – cannabis included – do not function the same way for every person. What works for some people simply may not work for others. As a result, cannabis should not be treated as a silver bullet that will dispense with any and all medical problems, depression or otherwise.
“We’re in a time where there are claims being made that cannabis fixes an awful lot of very unrelated diseases,” says Dr. Tishler. “What we’re going to find is that some of that is wishful thinking, and some of it is real.”
This, he continues, could actually benefit medicine and science in the long run. It will not only provide greater clarity to physicians looking to treat patients with cannabis, but will also endow cannabis with greater medical credibility.
“Once we really start to get a handle on some of that stuff, we’ll be able to be more specific about how to use it and with whom to use it and for what circumstances – and that of course will increase our success rate at treating the people who are really likely to respond to it,” Tishler says.
In the meantime, physicians like Dr. Tishler have seen a lot of success in treating patients with cannabis and by ‘success’ we mean healing and improved quality of life.
If you or somebody you know is suffering from depression or anxiety, we highly recommend this new online course with Dr. Jordan Tishler…