After assessing the mental state of select countries worldwide and their corresponding mental health services, the Lancet Commission has concluded, “When it comes to mental health, every country is a developing country.” This significant study raises the alarm bells for global correspondence and the need to find quick solutions that will address what is rapidly becoming a global epidemic.
In the US alone, 1 in 5 adults (around 43.8 million people) experiences mental illness in a given year. Mood disorders caused by depression, dysthymic disorder, or bipolar disorder are the third most common causes of hospitalization for both the youth and the adults between the ages of 18 and 44. The lack of treatment of mental illness costs the country $193.2 billion in an estimated loss of earnings per year.
This economic and moral degradation prompts many to look at potential therapies, one of which is the use of medical marijuana. Perhaps one of the most-studied botanical specimen to date, it has over 20,000 literature points in cancer therapy, diabetes treatment, and a roster of other applications in the treatment of asthma, anorexia, and multiple sclerosis.
One glaring benefit from this list is marijuana’s potential to help alleviate pain, a primary function of opiates, narcotics that are causing over 40,000 deaths every year as a result of overdose.
Cannabis Alleviates Pain
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the highly addictive heroin, a substance that is classified by federal law as a Schedule I drug, a label it shares with marijuana. Under this category, a Schedule I substance is defined as a drug with no current medical use and a high potential for abuse. This is the apparent error that helped inflame marijuana advocacy in the US with petitions asking the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I list.
Cannabis’s potential to alleviate pain is only one reason to do so. The growing testimonies support the claim.
Two of the most common compounds in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is what is responsible for inducing a high among marijuana users while CBD is the element responsible for pain relief.
When a person uses marijuana, its cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body. These receptors are part of the body’s pain-mitigation network. Clinical evidence has successfully shown that it can be useful in treating patients which chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and even multiple sclerosis.
Cannabis Replaces Opiates for Patients
In states where patients have access to medical marijuana, people are vocal about the benefits they’re getting from the drug. However, it’s not just hearsay.
In a recent study published this year in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers compared patterns of opioid prescriptions in states with medical cannabis laws with those without. They found that states that have open medical cannabis laws had 2.21 million fewer daily opioid doses prescribed annually than in states that prohibit the drug.
In another research, two teams saw a 9 or 10 percent reduction in prescriptions of opioids in Oregon and Colorado, two of the most cannabis-forward states in the country. In states where recreational use is allowed, a 6.38 percent reduction was also found.
The availability of dispensaries is also seen as a positive factor in shifting people from opiate use. There was a 14.5 percent reduction in usage once dispensaries were turned on, and where home cultivation is permitted, there’s about a 7 percent usage reduction rate.
How to Explore the Cannabis Substitute
Keep in mind that marijuana is a drug and that caution is necessary for its use. If your state has open cannabis laws and you have not explored the cannabis option yet, the following tips can guide you in taking all the right steps toward a result-oriented experience.
Consult an expert. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of exploring the cannabis alternative. Ask for the best path to take regarding your treatment.
In some states where cannabis is legalized for medical use, doctors may be more open about discussing this option. After all, you’re in charge. It also helps to do a bit of research and to get feedback from people who have had prior experience.
Learn your company’s drug policies. Workplace policies vary across the states. While some companies exercise leniency toward cannabis, many are still hesitant to embrace the culture in the workplace. It’s always smart to consult with your human resource personnel about drug-related company restrictions before going forward with your decision.
Otherwise, it may be practical to either use the drug discreetly (and, of course, legally), talk to your employer for a possible exception under confidentiality, or learn a few hacks to pass a routine test. Read about tips on how to pass a urine test or ways to beat a saliva drug test.
Research your options. New techniques in consumption have made it possible for some patients to consume cannabis without getting the high effect induced by the THC in the drug. Topicals and tinctures are popular options. These infusions are often introduced into food or a beverage to give you the desired effect without the mellow and heady after feel. Vaping is also an efficient way to experience cannabis instantaneously, less the respiratory risk associated with burning the organic material.
For now, cannabis as a treatment to the mental health epidemic is still experimental. In the US, the effort and data collection can take a few years before substantial evidence can end the debate.
If you’re looking at this option for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to ask questions and make appropriate decisions. Talk to the right people, and make sure you have answers first before you take the step forward.