With marijuana use and mental health both wildly stigmatized, perhaps there are solutions in place that are as simple as having a conversation.
Millions of Americans are coping with mental health issues. Often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, those who suffer in silence with mental illness issues often remain silent due to the stigmatization that shrouds depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.
Two perspectives on cannabis and mental health
Olivia Alexander, the founder of Kush Queens, an online retailer in CBD and Cannabis products, shared recently that she questioned growing a business and leading a team while addressing using cannabis for her mental health. “It’s a hard thing to admit that some days you can’t cope with daily life without cannabis,” Olivia explains online. CBD and cannabis helped ease the symptoms of Olivia’s bipolar disorder and Olivia found that she was more successful using cannabis than without.
But, there’s another side to the story. Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz believes that substances like marijuana can carry mental health risks. Speaking in 2018, she shared, “As a clinical psychiatrist specializing in addiction, as someone committed to treating people with substance use disorders, as a concerned American—I cannot stress enough how understated the risks and consequences tied to marijuana consumption are in our nation’s dialogue.” Dr. McCane-Katz listed risks such as a decrease in IQ and a “predisposition to mental illness” as risks that society needs to address.
Interestingly, a study in 2016 demonstrates no loss of IQ in British teens who consumed marijuana.
“Marijuana users lost about four IQ points over the course of the study. But their abstinent twin siblings showed a similar pattern of decline, suggesting that the loss of mental sharpness was due to something other than pot…” (The American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Two wildly-different perspectives lead to one, gigantic question: At what point do rewards outweigh risks?
Mental Health: The figures involved
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI,) shared powerful statistics around mental health that may offer more insight:
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.
- Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
- Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10–34.
Steps to a solution
It may currently be a stretch to stay that cannabis can eliminate the stigma of mental illness, but it certainly has the power to empower and start conversations that can lead to healing. Ljubica Kostovic from TRNTO believes that perception is already changing in CBD and cannabis, with individuals more willing to use for pain, anxiety, and PTSD. He shared, “Cannabis has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years and has been used to treat mental health conditions for over a century — its full legalization on a federal level presents a unique opportunity for us to explore.”
With marijuana use and mental health both wildly stigmatized, perhaps there are solutions in place that are as simple as a conversation. Twisp House of Cannabis in Washington recently hired a 74-year-old woman named Sonja, as they noticed many of their older patrons wanted to speak to someone who was currently or had been in their place. Undergoing certification, Sonja is hoping to eliminate the stigma of cannabis by sharing her story and the benefits of marijuana with adults who may not have asked before, a tactic often used in the mental health community that allows for greater inclusion and trust.
Stories are an incredible balm, aren’t they? When individuals feel safe in sharing, it allows others to do the same.