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From Stigma to Science: Exploring the Role of Cannabis in Mental Health Treatment

Patient Education

This article is tailored for patients. Refer your patients to this article for them to learn more about their condition.


For the longest time, society has deeply misunderstood two topics: cannabis and mental health. These mentalities stuck around for a long time, and only recently have people begun opening their minds. Marijuana’s legalization in several countries and the greater understanding of Cannabismental health played a crucial role in changing attitudes towards both subjects. Eventually, studies on cannabis and mental health overlapped, and the results look positive.


Learning the true facts about marijuana is essential for making informed decisions regarding its use as a mental health aid. Although researchers have made great strides, reading headlines won’t cut it. This article will explore the relationship between cannabis and mental health and whether or not it’s something you should consider as an aid. 

How does cannabis and mental health treatment overlap?

The plant’s effects on mood, anxiety, and stress relief mean there’s interest from scientists in exploring its positive impact. Of course, researchers have other reasons to study cannabis,  as the drug’s negative effects also need exploration. The sheer variety of effects on different users means cannabis and mental health research have only touched the tip of the iceberg. Still, these studies go a long way toward informing users and non-users alike about the medicinal properties and risks of marijuana. 

Debunking common myths about cannabis effects on mental health

Although knowledge is more accessible nowadays,  it also means misinformation is just as easy to find. For example, there are many myths surrounding cannabis strains such as indica and sativa, particularly their potent effects. The lack of public information surrounding cannabis causes misinformation to flourish. Debunking these myths is a needed step to understanding cannabis as a medicinal product. 

Myth: Cannabis is not an addictive substance 

One of the misguided attempts to soften people towards marijuana is unsourced claims that they do not cause addiction. Much like any recreational drug or alcohol, people should only consume it in moderation. Studies show that chronic cannabis addiction can lead to similar withdrawal effects to tobacco in some people. Never use cannabis as a crutch for any struggle, as it will quickly become a coping mechanism.

Myth: Cannabis can cause mental illnesses

Although cannabis can trigger mental illnesses, no studies directly support cannabis as a direct origin of mental illnesses such as psychosis and schizophrenia. However, consuming cannabis while actively living with either condition can worsen symptoms. Hence, doctors do not recommend cannabis as a treatment in those use cases. 

Myth: People can easily overdose on cannabis 

Some claim cannabis is risky for newbies and may even cause overdose. However, research proves that it would take an impractically massive amount of cannabis to start experiencing overdose effects, regardless of cannabis strain. There will still be harmful side effects from consuming too much cannabis daily, but they are unlikely to be fatal. 

Myth: Cannabis is a gateway drug

Some critics of cannabis will concede that cannabis is not nearly as bad as other drugs but continue to argue its danger as a “gateway” drug.  Although some people certainly tried other drugs after cannabis, there’s not enough data to support the claim that it’s a slippery slope. If anything, substances like alcohol and tobacco are more likely to cause addictive behaviors. 

Does cannabis help treat mental health issues?

In truth, there is no straightforward answer to that question. The effects of cannabis vary from person to person, and mental illness even moreso. What works for some people could end up hurting others, and vice versa. Researchers found many patients who consume medicinal marijuana don’t even want a high. They simply want to “feel better,” and thankfully, there are proven case studies where marijuana does make people feel better. 

Proven medicinal uses for cannabis

Cannabis does have genuine medicinal properties,  but just like any other medicine, it’s not a cure-all. Using cannabis as a cure for every malady will not produce positive results, and it’s important to know when it’s appropriate to consume it.

Chronic pain

Cannabis, especially cannabinoids like THC and CBD, can effectively manage chronic pain, including neuropathic pain and pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia.  Mental health often gets exacerbated by chronic pain, so its reduction could lead to immediate mental relief. 

Muscle spasms and sclerosis

Cannabis can reduce muscle spasms and spasticity, particularly in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.  The uncontrollable nature of these muscle maladies often stresses out those living with the condition, so its reduction can help ease their mind. 

Epilepsy and seizures

CBD has been effective in reducing certain types of seizures in treatment-resistant epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The FDA-approved Epidiolex contains CBD for these conditions but not for more common forms of epilepsy. 


Migraines and nausea

THC helps control nausea and vomiting, especially in chemotherapy patients, making treatments more tolerable. It may also reduce the frequency and severity of migraines due to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Recreational use

Certain strains of cannabis can help some users alleviate stress and calm heightened emotions. The euphoric feelings from the THC may also contribute to a person’s overall positive mood. However, these vary from person to person, and consulting a doctor is always recommended. 

Final thoughts

Cannabis is not a miracle drug and should not be seen as such. However, that doesn’t mean it has no medicinal uses.  Medicinal marijuana objectively has proven benefits for those suffering from chronic pain and certain kinds of muscle disease. 


The relief from pain will directly lead to improved mental health for those patients, as they no longer have to contend with the pain from their medical problems.  Everything else only has moderately-researched studies and requires the patient’s judgment on whether or not they want to opt for it. Regardless, always do your due research and consult a doctor before pursuing any self-treatment.

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