Marijuana--The good and the not so good for your mental health

There have been many questions since medicinal marijuana became legal in our state of Florida.  There are important things you need to know--both about being able to get it legally through a physician, and also what the effects of recreational marijuana are if you choose to use it as a means of self-medicating.  It is important to know what you are putting into your body, and what those effects may be for you.

After attending a training through our local mental health counselors chapter on this subject, I felt this beneficial knowledge to share --especially since we were informed that we learned more than a general physician would in a training required for them to write a letter for you recommending medicinal marijuana. Physicians cannot write an actual prescription. Physicians also are only required to be trained on the legalities of this alternative medicine, not the actual knowledge Dr. Gregory Smith of Tampa shared with us.  Dr. Smith has extensively focused on researching both the effects and the benefits of being treated with medicinal marijuana, along with what the risks can be when trying to treat yourself with recreational marijuana. If you are recommended for medicinal marijuana by your doctor, and go to a dispensary, know that dispensary staff has no training, so they cannot additionally advise you. 

Marijuana is a combination of CBD and THC.  There are two components to marijuana--CBD and THC.  CBD is non-euphoric, and has minimal adverse effects.  It does not get you high; yet it holds 80% of the therapeutic effects cannabis has. THC is euphoric, and gets you high, but it is also associated with major adverse effects. What you get that is not bought in a dispensary is mostly THC.  Recreational-grade cannabis has much more THC than CBD. Medical grade cannabis has equal or greater amounts of CBD and THC. In a nutshell, it was explained CBD is beneficial, but THC you get on the street is not what is needed to help with medical or mental health concerns you may have. What you get in dispensaries is medical grade for the purpose of treating medical and mental conditions.  The by-products of smoked plant material you get on the street can lead to such things as respiratory infections, coughing, and wheezing.  Too high of a dose of THC can cause dysphoria—a highly unpleasant feeling as though, “I am going to die”.

Cannabis is addictive.  Despite what has been talked about frequently under the area of substance abuse, marijuana can be addictive.  There are several enzymes in your body that impact how CBD and THC are metabolized that impact efficacy, adverse effects, and the likelihood of developing dependency.  Without getting too technical, if you have a certain gene, you are more likely to become dependent.  Also, when you cease using marijuana, there are withdrawal symptoms.  It is similar to caffeine withdrawal.  You most likely will be, “grumpy”. My professional knowledge is that when there is withdrawal, there is addiction.

There are different forms for different conditions.  CBD topical gels, extracts, oils, sprays, edibles and skin patches have proven beneficial for your auto immune system, and with mental health concerns.  It can help with swelling and inflammation for such things as psoriasis and eczema.  It can also be used in areas where you have physical pain.  For mental health concerns, CBD is fat soluble, so it is best absorbed in the mouth, not in the liver—where things are processed in your body.  The best is to absorb it underneath your tongue or in your mouth.  Yet, for anxiety, using a vapor with CBD works best, and will last for about an hour and a half. 

Getting the correct dosage for you is important.  There is something called an MDI inhaler, which will give an exact dose of what your body needs.  If you are getting high, it means your dose is too high. There are still personal risk factors to be concerned with. It is of benefit to work with a doctor that can work on what dosage is right for you. If you have consistently been a marijuana smoker, or if you have smoked very little or never, makes a difference.  Your doctor should have you keep a cannabis diary, and re-evaluate how you have been responding after your first two weeks.* 

Here are some examples of why the difference between CBD and THC matter. If you have insomnia, the best treatment is for CBD to go in through your stomach in the form of a tea. This way, the effects can last for six hours in an edible form of CBD.  If you are on a sleep medication, research has shown that CBD works well in place of more addictive barbiturates, and also gives you more restorative sleep.  If you are getting THC, your REM sleep will be compromised.  If you have anxiety, too much THC can cause panic attacks, or cause you to become paranoid or agitated.

Women that are pregnant or nursing are at risk.  Just as if you smoke cigarettes when you are pregnant, higher THC levels are associated with low birth weight. The research is questioning treating anyone under the age of 25 due to the developing brain.  While positive mood effects of cannabis are particularly noticeable, it is more challenging due to an increased risk of adverse effects, and to find the right dosage for the senior population.

There is also a risk of dependency and developing psychosis. Many of the same psychological symptoms that can be treated with cannabis (CBD), such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, agitation, schizophrenia, hallucinations, hyperarousal, eating disorders, OCD (obsessive- compulsive disorder) or insomnia can also be temporarily caused by rapid or excessive intake of THC. 

Also, if you have a family history of schizophrenia, a prior history of having a psychotic episode or schizophrenia, prior history of panic, prior or current history of alcohol or drug dependency, a prior psychotic episode from recreational cannabis use, you can also be at risk by using THC.  There is also a rare disorder from chronic, heavy use of recreational marijuana, where you will feel bouts of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.  But, the adverse effects are rare with medical grade cannabis and medical doses of CBD.  Recent studies also suggest that CBD may be helpful in treating addictive disorders involving opioids, cocaine, stimulants, and also tobacco.

There are still things to be ironed out.  Medicinal marijuana is new to our state.  The cost of getting accepted to receive it’s treatment is higher now than it may be at a later date.  Keeping up to date on the cost and efficiency of something new is to be considered.  If you choose to find out if this is right for you, it is now a choice you have. Choose wisely.

*This is meant to be a summary of my understanding of what I learned through attending a seminar.  Please do not use this article to make any medical decisions.  Please consult with a physician.

If you found this summary informative, please feel free to share it with others you feel could benefit from this beginning knowledge.


Suggested reading:


1.    Marijuana is a combination of CBD and THC. 


2.    Cannabis is addictive. 


3.   There are different forms for different conditions.


4.   Getting the correct dosage for you is important. 


5.   Here are some examples of why the difference between CBD and THC matter.


6.   There are still things to be ironed out.