Cannabis and Mental Health
Mental health is multifaceted, involving how our minds and bodies cope with a wide range of issues, from everyday stressors to diagnosed mental illness to chronic physical problems. Cannabis can play a significant role in calming your mind and better reducing the factors in your life that have an impact on your emotional well-being.
To find a cannabis routine that can help your mental health, it comes down to understanding how cannabis affects your mental health and what you need to consider as you navigate the growing world of options you have available to you at a dispensary.
How does cannabis influence your mental health?
The phytocannabinoids in cannabis like delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) interact with a system every human has called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a role in many aspects of our experience as humans, including mood. In fact, phytocannabinoids from cannabis mimic the endocannabinoids your body produces naturally.
Two types of endocannabinoid receptors have been identified in this system thus far: CB1 receptors, which are clustered primarily in your nervous system and brain, and CB2 receptors, which appear in parts of your body associated with your immune system.
For some diagnosed with anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or a similar mood disorder, a cannabis regimen may involve finding a product that helps calm your mind, making an overall improvement on your mental health. For others, consuming cannabis to alleviate physical issues that may impact emotional well-being, such as chronic pain, may be their approach to caring for their mental health. And others yet simply want to incorporate cannabis into their wind-down routine so they can relax and rest to prepare for the next day. Any of these reasons are perfectly valid when it comes to trying cannabis to care for your mental health.
Which mental health conditions can cannabis help?
Studies have shown how cannabis may help certain mental health conditions. Among them are:
- Anxiety: More than 40 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with anxiety, and it’s also one of the top reasons for cannabis consumption1 among adults in the United States. Researchers believe that endocannabinoids (and phytocannabinoids) modulate neurotransmission associated with anxiety. When phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain, they mimic what endocannabinoids already do to help keep anxiety in check. THC is thought to activate the CB1 receptors in your brain, which could exacerbate or calm down anxiety. However, CBD is believed to reduce anxiety because of the way it modulates how your brain reacts to THC.
- PTSD: Research into cannabis and PTSD is new yet promising. One recent study published in December 2020 found that participants were 2.57 times more likely than the control group to no longer meet the clinical criteria for PTSD after one year of cannabis use2. Although the science offers important looks into the potential cannabis has to help those with PTSD, researchers have yet to conclude whether cannabis affects PTSD itself, or helps relieve some of the symptoms associated with PTSD, such as anxiety and insomnia. Either way, cannabis has been such a life-changing medicine for some veterans who live with PTSD that several veterans’ groups have taken up the cause to help former military personnel access medical cannabis3.
- Stress and relaxation. While not a mental health disorder, per se, chronic stress takes a toll on your body and mind. Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels and other hormones that can impact a wide range of mental and physical health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Relaxation plays a big role in combating stress, and combining your go-to relaxation techniques with cannabis may be the right solution for you.
In addition to alleviating the effects of certain mental health conditions, cannabis can be helpful in relieving symptoms related to health issues that could cause anxiety or depression. Some of those conditions include:
- Chronic pain: Managing chronic pain can take a huge toll on mental health, and multiple studies have found a link between chronic pain and declining mental health, specifically depression4. Cannabis can be an effective way to manage symptoms of several types of chronic pain, including neuropathy, cancer pain, and injury, and improving chronic pain symptoms can have a consequential effect on your mood.
- Crohn’s disease: Rates of depression and anxiety are higher among Crohn’s disease5 patients than they are among the general population. Cannabis has been shown to improve GI motility, gut inflammation, nausea, and vomiting, including anticipatory nausea associated with anxiety or trauma. Incorporating cannabis into Crohn’s treatment may be an effective way to help improve declining mental health as a result of managing this painful and complicated condition.
- Sleep disorders: Insomnia and other sleep disorders affect up to 70 million U.S. adults6. The condition itself is multifaceted, presents in many ways, and can be caused by any number of conditions. When it comes to anxiety, though, insomnia is one of the prime side effects: Worry puts your brain in a state of hyperarousal that makes sleep elusive7. Learn more about cannabis and insomnia on our guide.
Tips for developing a routine that works for your mental health
There’s no one right way to try cannabis for mental health, and that’s due to two main reasons. The first is that each person is highly individualized, and the way cannabis impacts someone you know doesn’t mean you’ll feel precisely the same way. The second reason is due to the array of ways your mental health is influenced by both emotional and physical disorders. These below tips can help you formulate a routine that works for you.
- Determine your “why”: The reason you want to try cannabis and your desired outcome will shape when you consume cannabis and which product you choose. That’s because different product types, ratios of phytocannabinoids and terpenes, methods of administration, and amounts are all affected by your why for trying cannabis for your mental health.
- Know what’s in your products: Just as important as understanding your symptoms is knowing the products you’re consuming. The right combination of compounds interplaying with one another, called the entourage effect, can trigger certain responses in your mind and body. For example, anxiety disorders may be triggered by elevated levels of THC, and a more level of THC to CBD can balance out THC’s effect on your mind without affecting the relief you seek.
- Choose the right product type: Cannabis products fall into four general methods of administration: Inhalation, sublingual, ingestible, and topical. Each one has its own unique effects on your body, and understanding that effect can help you choose the best product for your mental health.
- Inhaled products have a faster onset but shorter duration, making them best for when you need quick relief.
- Ingestible products have slower onset but longer duration, making them a good option for relief that lasts for several hours.
- Sublingual products absorbed in your mouth (not swallowed) have a moderate onset and a shorter duration, but their bioavailability of these products is higher than inhaled or ingested products.
- Topical products have a faster onset but they have a localized effect, so most topical products won’t be felt by your whole body – just where they were applied.
- Learn more about your cannabis product options through our guide.
- Don’t forget about terpenes: It’s not just cannabinoids that can have an effect on your mental health. The fragrant and flavorful terpene content of your product can shape your desired outcome. For example, the floral linalool terpene and citrusy limonene terpene are regarded as mood enhancers, so if you want a mood boost, look for products with elevated levels of these terpenes alongside the right phytocannabinoid profile for your desired outcome.
4 ways to incorporate cannabis into your mental health routine
There’s no one right way to incorporate cannabis into your mental health routine. These four suggestions can help you explore what’s right for you.
1. Enhance your relaxation practice
Relaxation is the top reason for cannabis consumption among U.S. adults. Unwinding looks different for everyone, so formulating a personal practice that helps you rest and recover is key to successfully incorporating cannabis into this part of your life.
Stuck for ideas? Try one of these:
- Consume cannabis before practicing yoga
- Incorporate cannabis into your meditation practice
- Try cannabis to enhance a creative hobby like painting or playing music
- Combine an inhaled cannabis product with deep breathing exercises
- Try progressive muscle relaxation8 after a cannabis session
- Enjoy your favorite cannabis product while watching your favorite movie or TV show
2. Infuse your morning routine
Having a morning routine can help improve your mental health9, as it can shape how you start your day on the right foot. And if the idea of a hectic morning starts your day with stress, a cannabis break built into your morning routine may be the right way to help calm your mind. If you’re in search of all-day anxiety relief, a capsule or edible may be the right product type, but if you want to start your day right away on a calm foot, an inhaled product may be best.
Keep in mind, though, that high THC may impact how you go about your day, including your work performance. Look to high-CBD or balanced ratio products to ensure you stay clear-headed, if that’s what you need that day.
3. Boost your workout
Relaxation and working out? Yes, cannabis can play a role in both. Movement has boundless positive benefits on mental health, boosting feel-good hormones like dopamine immediately after a workout. Cannabis can be an added mental health support, helping to minimize anxiety in athletes of all abilities. There’s also the impact topicals can have on your sore muscles after exercise, calming your body from the inside, out. Try your chosen cannabis product after movement to enhance your recovery.
4. Explore cannabis skincare
A “spa night” at home can be just what you need to start the next day feeling refreshed. And phytocannabinoids and terpenes can have a positive impact on your skin. Studies have suggested that CBD and THC can help counter skin inflammation, while terpenes like limonene have their own antibacterial effects that are good for glowing skin. Check out our guide to skincare for a THC lotion recipe you can try at home.
Your mental health matters
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or chronic pain is taking a toll on your emotional well-being, cannabis can help improve your mental health. And at Ethos, we want to help you find relief with a product and routine that works best for your circumstances. Our pharmacists and product associates are available to help you understand your options and how cannabis can enhance your mood and general well-being. Visit an Ethos cannabis dispensary location near you to get started.
We want to hear from you. Whatever you think. At Ethos, you’re at home and your voice is heard.