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Cannabis and Mental Health – Harm Reduction Strategies

According to some studies, there is a significant connection between psychosis and cannabis. That is the reason it is highly recommended that the individuals who are mentally ill or had a history of mental illness (personal as well as within the family) should never take cannabis. Every year nearly 1 out of 5 of every American and Canadian individual goes through a mental health condition. Additionally, 1 out of 33 Americans and Canadians are predicted to suffer from psychosis at least once in his lifetime.

But, is the avoidance of cannabis the only way to maintain mental health? Or is there any option that would allow the consumption of cannabis along with the precautions to ensure mental health?

Mental Health and Cannabis

The connection between mental health and cannabis is very complex that requires further research. According to some researchers, one of the main reasons behind mental illness is cannabis. While others hold the point of view that people who have the tendency to suffer from mental illness have a greater chance of feeling attracted to cannabis.

One thing is definite and everyone should agree on it that is even if someone is consuming cannabis while having a history of mental illness personally or have within the family with suffering from mental illness especially psychosis, he must be willing to do whatever it takes to lessen the harm. The risk of mental health conditions by taking cannabis can be lessened in many ways.

What’s the Risk?

The biggest risk of consuming cannabis is the development of psychosis, a certain condition that causes individuals to lose contact with the real world. It has numerous symptoms including hearing and seeing things that are not-existent, followed by paranoid behavior.

Even though people who have no mental illness can suffer from paranoia due to the use of THC, those who fully develop mental illness after exposure to cannabis most probably had the tendency towards it already.

According to some shreds of evidence, people suffering from mental illness have a high probability of feeling attracted to cannabis instead of cannabis being the origin of their mental illness. The same is the case with depression. There is a link between a substantial consumption of cannabis and depression. However, the connection is still under research hence is ambiguous.

Guidelines to Mitigate the Risk

Before moving forward to the details, we would again suggest that if you are looking forward to consuming cannabis while having an individual or family history of mental health issues, you should try your best not to try consuming cannabis. It can be too dangerous for vulnerable individuals who are facing mental health problems.

Always remember, if you want to treat your body in the best possible way, you should refrain from consuming cannabis. But if you are facing a hard time and you need to use it, you should try to delay until you enter adulthood.

As stated by Dr. Romina Mizrahi, a health professional at The Centre of Mental Health, consuming cannabis can have an adverse effect on the development of our brain. Hence, it is better to reduce consumption as much as possible and wait for the brain to develop fully. Ideally, one should not consume cannabis until he is 24 or 25. He must wait at least until he turns 21.

Another way of minimizing the risks is to take a lower content of THC in cannabis. Cannabis with the ratio of CBD more than THC is also recommended. The reason behind reducing the amount of THC is that it is directly linked to mental diseases, hence, minimizing its amount can protect you from many harms.

Additionally, if you are a beginner, you should start your journey with a light dose of cannabis. A low start with a gradual increase in the amount taken will mitigate the risk of after-effects. At any point, if you observe any negative impact on your mental health, you are recommended to stop the dosage and consult with your doctor.

Lastly, individuals who have a history of mental psychosis personally or in their family are not recommended to use cannabis at all. If you know someone in your family (a first-degree relative such as your mother, brother, or father, etc.) who is suffering from mental health conditions, you should be extra vigilant while considering consuming cannabis. The closer you are to the patient, the higher is the risk for you.

For instance, in case any of your first-degree relatives get diagnosed with schizophrenia, the probability you being affected by it is 6.3 times higher than a normal person. Similarly, if such a case is with your second-degree relatives, you are at 2.4 times higher risk than an average person.

In Nut Shell

For people who, despite having a history of mental illness individually or in family, chose to continue consuming cannabis for any reason, Health Canada, in association with The Center of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), has introduced guidelines to reduce risk of using cannabis.

  1. Refrain from using during the teenage. According to the researchers, consumption of cannabis during the teens can affect the development of the brain, increasing the potential risk of mental illness
  2. In case consumption of cannabis is the only way out for you, consider taking the one with lesser content of THC and a bigger ratio of CBD to THC.
  3. Illegal cannabis that has no been tested should be avoided at all costs.
  4. To avoid side effects, start with a lower dosage in the beginning.
  5. At any point, if you feel that the consumption of cannabis is affecting your mental health, it is recommended that you stop using it and look for professional help.

Despite the above-stated guidelines, the priority should always be to avoid consuming cannabis if you are suffering from mental health or have a family history of mental illness. Choosing otherwise would increase the risk of mental illness in the future therefore it is better to refrain its consumption in the first place.

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