Many of us will face battles with our mental health at some point in our lives, and with a pandemic raging and our normal lives curtailed, such issues are more prevalent than ever.
Cannabis Health looks at some of the ways CBD can help with five mental health issues, including depression, OCD and anxiety.
According to the World Health Organisation, depression affects more than 264 million people worldwide.
There are numerous different approaches to treating low mood, all generally focused around medication and talking therapy, or a combination of the two.
However, such therapies don’t work for everyone; as many as 40 per cent of people do not feel any improvement with antidepressant medications.
Many are now turning to CBD, which interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to regulate appetite, body temperature, blood pressure, metabolism, pain and mood.
Researchers believe that CBD relieves symptoms of depression by binding to the CB1 receptor within the endocannabinoid system, reducing nervous system inflammation and regulating the body’s response to serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’.
Furthermore, CBD comes without the side effects that often accompany prescription anti-depressants, such as insomnia, fatigue and sexual issues.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders, with an estimated four per cent of the population suffering from some form of the condition.
Increasing numbers are turning to CBD to help; a 2019 poll found that 37 per cent of users take the supplement to relieve anxiety.
While research is ongoing, preliminary findings from the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggest that CBD may reduce stress in animals such as rats.
Study subjects were observed to have lower behavioural signs of anxiety, and physiological symptoms, such as increased heart rate, also improved.
Last year, a study by Washington State University found that the severity of symptoms for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, was reduced by about half within just four hours of smoking cannabis.
The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, also found that higher doses and cannabis with higher concentrations of CBD, or cannabidiol, were associated with larger reductions in compulsions.
However, researchers were careful to point out that the effects were short-term, saying further research was needed to truly assess CBD’s usefulness.
Anecdotally, many people say that one of their primary reasons for using CBD is for stress relief.
And while many studies focus on short-term effects, research last year found that long-term cannabis use reduced stress – in rats at least.
Researchers measured levels of the stress hormone corticosterone before and after a 30-day period rats, who were in either a control group or one of three test groups that were given access to cannabis of low, medium, or high potencies.
After the 30-day period, the female rats that had access to the medium potency cannabis demonstrated a significantly muted physiological response.
With more than a third of adults not getting the recommended hour of sleep, CBD is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for insomnia and related issues.
While the effect of cannabis on sleeping patterns remains an underdeveloped area of research, early findings are promising.
A 2019 study found that levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – reduced significantly in participants who took between 300 and 600mg of CBD oil.
And even if CBD has no specific impact on sleeping patterns, its ability to reduce anxiety – a common cause of insomnia – is widely researched and accepted amongst the academic community.
“I’ve been given so many labels, but CBD made me feel normal again”
Founder of the cannabidiol brand, Euphoria CBD, talks to Cannabis Health about how CBD has helped him turn his life around and move on from the trauma of his childhood.
23-year-old Matthew Cobb says he has seen “way too much” for someone his age.
At the age of 12, Matthew was taken into the care system, suffering from serious mental health issues stemming from traumatic events in his early youth.
Throughout the course of his childhood, he was diagnosed with PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, multiple personality disorder and bipolar and was given medication in an effort to treat his mental health.
“I took medication from a very young age,” Matthew says over the phone.
“I suppose a lot of it at the time was my mum trying to find a reason as to why my behaviour was the way it was.”
His doctors prescribed him medications such as Ritalin, Concerta XL, sertraline and olanzapine to cope but none of them worked for him and the side effects were, at times, crippling.
“Prescribed medication was very prominent in my childhood. They didn’t really do anything for me but I was forced to take them every day,” he says.
“There was not one [medication] that I could take and feel myself. Some of them made me angry, some of them absolutely tore me apart and made me borderline suicidal.”
Eventually, the side effects became too much, and Matthew decided to stop taking prescription medication at 15-years-old.
Having first encountered cannabis at the age of 13, he began to solely rely on “medicating” through the drug. In his late teenage years, Matthew says he would often consume upwards of £70 worth of cannabis in one day.
“It was the only thing that gave me some sense of normality at the time. The fact that ‘stoned’ was the closest to normality that I could get at 17-years-old was a problem,” he says.
At the age of 18, Matthew stumbled across CBD for the first time in a local convenience store where he saw a pack of CBD flower for sale.
“I saw this thing that ultimately looked like cannabis. I’d never heard of CBD before,” he recalls.
He bought the 0.5 g pack and went to the local park to roll a ‘CBD joint’ and was astounded by the effects.
“It was just a feeling of constant relaxation. I didn’t feel paranoid. I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me,” he says.
Later, Matthew began to experience more profound benefits as his consumption of CBD began to positively impact his mental health.
“I started to notice that my depression was easing off and I was starting to feel better in myself,” he continues.
“It was completely different to smoking cannabis. I wasn’t getting high anymore, but I was sleeping again and I was eating properly. My head didn’t feel so up in the air, I didn’t feel manic.”
For Matthew, smoking cannabis was never about getting high. He just wanted to feel “normal”, and cannabis was the only substance he could find that got him close to that feeling.
“I had a lot of issues that I didn’t understand, a lot of issues that didn’t make sense,” he says.
“I was heading in a massive downward spiral and [cannabis] was the only thing that took the edge off.
“It was about making me feel some sense of normality. I got that with CBD, so it almost made cannabis null and void.”
With a renewed clarity of mind, Matthew realised that he had to make a change in his life.
“In two years, you’re going to be in prison or you’re going to be dead,” he thought.
Matthew says he hasn’t picked up a cannabis joint since the first time he tried CBD and from that moment, he was himself for the first time in his life. He no longer recognises in himself the mental health issues that he was diagnosed with as a child.
“My view is I don’t have any mental health issues,” he says.
“I was given many different labels, but they would change week to week; ADHD, bipolar disorder, personality disorder this, personality disorder that, depression.
“I had had a label for everything, but my life now is pretty normal.
“CBD has taken those labels away. It has given me something that no medication could; it’s given me – me.”
Having experienced first-hand the benefits of CBD, Matthew launched his own brand, Euphoria CBD, in July 2020.
It is set to launch a range of new products throughout 2021, including e-liquids, soap bars, bath bombs, moisturiser creams.
Frustrated with the lofty costs of CBD products, he set out to make high-quality cannabidiol affordable. Recalling a time in his life where he was struggling to make ends meet and pay for the supplement that had such a huge impact on his life, Matthew aims to make CBD accessible to everyone, regardless of their income.
“CBD is something that comes with benefits for so many different people, but the problem is that people don’t realise how much poverty there actually is in this country,” he adds.
“People can’t afford this kind of product, it’s just not possible. My goal is to provide an affordable product that genuinely helps people.”
Five tips for coping with life after lockdown
As much as many of us can’t wait for life to return to normal, after over year of living with some form of restrictions, it’s normal to be feeling a little bit anxious about life after lockdown.
From March 8 onwards, the UK will start to slowly emerge from lockdown, with schools opening first, followed by non-essential shops and leisure facilities over the coming months.
And while there are things about the return to ‘normal’ that we will all be looking forward to, it’s not unusual to be feeling a little apprehensive, or even anxious, about re-entering society.
Luckily, there are a number of ways you can manage your anxiety – and the sooner you start, the more effective it will be.
Take it slowly
If you’re feeling worried, it’s probably best not to book tickets for a festival or a round-the-world cruise. Instead, aim to maybe meet up with one person at a time, or have a coffee at an outside café. Whatever you choose, it’s best to do something, as the longer you leave it, the worse your anxiety will be.
Keep in touch
While Zoom and text fatigue have definitely set in after 12 months of lockdowns and distancing, now is the time to rekindle some of those connections.
Even if you don’t meet up in person just yet, it can be good to chat through your anxiety with a friend – chances are, they’ll know exactly how you’re feeling.
Try something new
Try to vary your routine so you see different people and situations until you find what you’re comfortable with. Maybe your usual walking route is very busy in the mornings; now the nights are getting lighter, try going out in the early evening.
Trying something different can also break any negative connections you may associate with lockdown; if your local streets were as far as you travelled during lockdown, a walk around a different neighbourhood gives your brain a clear signal that something has changed.
Have a plan
While you can’t control everything, you do have power over some aspects of returning to a more normal life. If you’re feeling worried or anxious about going out, make yourself an action plan of how you’re going to handle it – and how you’ll respond to anything unexpected.
A little extra help
CBD is well known for its calming effects, and many people use it to relieve symptoms of anxiety. Although more research is needed to understand the science behind using CBD as a treatment for anxiety, plenty of people anecdotally report a positive impact on their symptoms. A 2019 Gallup Poll discovered that 37 percent of CBD users take the supplement for anxiety.
CBD is thought to work by changing serotonin signals in the body through the interaction with CB1, a receptor found in the central nervous system.
Low serotonin levels are generally linked with depression, however there is also evidence that it could be a cause of anxiety.
In another study from 2019, researchers gave 300mg of CBD (or a placebo) to 37 Japanese teenagers suffering from social anxiety.
The results found that the group who received CBD experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms and concluded that “the results indicate that CBD could be a useful option to treat social anxiety.”
Integro Medical Clinics: How cannabis can help manage migraine pain
The experts at Integro Medical Clinics explain how cannabis medicines can help manage and alleviate the excruciating pain of migraine.
Migraine can be a devastating and utterly miserable condition that can have a profound effect upon the patient’s quality of life.
But medical cannabis can offer a really effective, side-effect free treatment option, as we see in our patients’ story with Mike.
A migraine is categorised as a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. It is generally accompanied with symptoms such as feeling sick, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound.
It’s a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men and they usually begin in early adulthood.
No one knows exactly what causes migraines, although they are thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.
Many patients find they have a specific trigger such as certain food or drink, stress, tiredness or hormonal changes such as starting your period. Around half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition.
There are several types of migraine, including:
migraine with aura – where there are specific warning signs just before the migraine begins, such as seeing flashing lights
migraine without aura – the most common type, where the migraine happens without the specific warning signs
migraine aura without headache, also known as silent migraine – where an aura or other migraine symptoms are experienced, but a headache does not develop
The frequency of the occurrence of migraines really depends upon the individual. It can be several times a week to every few years.
There’s no one specific cure for migraines. Patients try pain medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen and triptans to help with the pain but these medicines are often ineffective.
If you suspect a specific trigger is causing your migraines, such as stress or a certain type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines.
It may also help to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sleep and meals, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
Cannabis medicines have been found by certain patients to be incredibly helpful in the management of pain.
Dr Anthony Ordman, senior clinical adviser and hon. clinical director of Integro Clinics explains why: “Recent medical scientific research is showing that cannabis medicines can have several useful roles in the prevention of migraine, and also reducing pain if a migraine attack does occur.
“It is likely that substances in cannabis medicines (plant-derived CBD, THC and terpenes) all have roles to play and that they supplement the activity of the brain’s naturally occurring endocannabinoid system. This system may be under-active in people prone to migraine.
“There are three likely mechanisms by which cannabis medicines may be effective. Firstly, the natural stabilising or anticonvulsant effect of the cannabinoids suppresses the spreading abnormal wave of voltage depression in the brain’s cortical neurones. This wave precedes all migraine attacks and causes the aura familiar to migraine sufferers.
“Secondly, cannabis substances are thought to stabilise the mast cells of the immune system. In migraine, mast cells are involved in dilatation, or opening up of the blood vessels of the brain’s lining (dura), causing that familiar pulsating headache. Cannabis medicines may prevent this process from occurring.
He adds: “And finally, as in other painful conditions, if a migraine does occur, cannabis medicines are likely to block the transmission of pain messages in nerves running from the brain stem to the pain centres of the brain, to reduce pain itself.
A recent study showed that cannabinoids may reduce migraine severity by 49.6 percent without causing the ‘overuse headache,’ that other pain medicines such as paracetamol may cause.”
The patient’s story
Mike is a physically fit 37-year-old South African, who first experienced migraines as a teenager.
The pain he suffered was agonising and totally debilitating. It disturbed his vision, caused nausea and deep pain. Prior to the onset he experienced the aura of lights and would go blind in one eye.
An attack could wipe out days of his life whilst he recovered. For several days after the attack, he would feel befuddled and that his brain was not working properly.
Initially he looked into what could be causing the migraines worrying that he might have a brain tumour, but MRI scans thankfully showed that this was not the case. It was through luck and circumstance he stumbled upon cannabis as a medicine for his condition.
Mike was out playing golf in the hot sun and he became dehydrated. He felt the first symptoms of the headache begin so he paused for a rest under a tree and smoked some cannabis.
Instantly, he felt the pain begin to recede and he knew he had found a solution to his condition. He also wanted to point out that he was able to finish his round of golf and win. He came to the realisation that dehydration and hot sun were his major triggers.
Using cannabis would also mean that when a migraine did come it would last for a much shorter period of time and there was none of the post attack brain fog.
“I cannot recommend medical cannabis highly enough as treatment for migraine,” says Mike.
“It addresses all of the symptoms of the loss of vision, nausea and deep pain by addressing the inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain.”
Dr Ordman adds: “Integro Medical Clinics always recommend remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition, while using cannabis-based medicines, and the Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.”
If you would like further information, or to make an appointment for a medical consultation, please contact us at Integro Clinics:
Further help and support can be found at the following patient charities:
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- “I’ve been given so many labels, but CBD made me feel normal again”
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