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Is cannabis treatment for anxiety, mood, and related disorders ready for prime time?
One of the most common mental conditions in the USA today is related to anxiety, mood, and depression symptoms. The anti-depressants that are traditionally being used have many side effects. This has led to looking to cannabis as a possible alternative treatment for people suffering from anxiety-related disorders. Medical cannabis is already being used to treat anxiety but there is very little documented research into the actual anxiolytic effects of cannabis as a whole. Some studies have been done on healthy humans, not currently suffering from any anxiety based disorders and limited to the number, gender, and other variables. Synthetic cannabinoids have also been tested to a degree but there are few studies based on natural plant based cannabis to treat anxiety in sufferers.
Cannabis is used by millions of people worldwide. Most of this use is to create a euphoric, relaxing effect. The dried plant or concentrated oils are used in a variety of ways. Inhaled through smoking or using a vaporizer, tinctures, edibles and more. Cannabis use is illegal in most countries, although there have been changes in legislation across the world over the last decade making cannabis use legal. Medical cannabis and cannabis derivatives with low THC levels have been legalized in many more countries as well as in specific states in the US. There have been over 400 compounds discovered in the cannabis plant, but most of the research has focused on THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
The evidence for using cannabis to treat mood and anxiety related disorders have been centered around single dose studies on healthy individuals, with small sample sizes, with minimal variations in test subjects. There are no complete treatment trials of a diverse population base and of people suffering from anxiety related problems. There would also need to be a follow-up phase to assess the long term results and if the short term gains were consistent long term. The actual plant based product would need to be tested extensively as opposed to a single compound or synthetic products which are usually used during the tests done to date.
Some of the existing studies do support the use of cannabis as an anxiolytic, while there are others that negate these research trials. Further, comprehensive research is required before cannabis products can effectively be presented as a treatment for anxiety and mood disorders. The entire plant would have to be evaluated as a whole as well as the individual compounds to assess the effects of the individual compounds on anxiety and other related mental issues. There would also need to be a clear delineation between specific strains, the dosage required, levels of specific cannabinoids and the various physiological and psychological effects of cannabis. The effects of cannabis coupled with other narcotics, alcohol, and medications would also need to be comprehensively assessed before cannabis can be presented as an alternative to the current medications available.
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