No, your CBD seltzer won’t help you. Your hemp-derived tea won’t calm you down, and those buzzy vegan gummies won’t armour your mind against stress.
Neither will medical weed. At least, that’s what a new study, freshly published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, seems to have found: that medicinal cannabis — and its affiliated sister products — hasn’t been proven to do much of anything when it comes to easing mental illness symptoms.
The popular narrative that smoking weed makes a person “mellow out” has often been marred by questions about mental health. Does it really help? Or does it make everything worse? To find out, a team of Australian researchers pored over 83 studies that assessed the relationship between 3,000 people, medicinal marijuana, and a number of neurological conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and Tourette’s syndrome.
What they found was, though many people turn to cannabinoids (any product with chemicals derived from cannabis) for calming and soothing purposes, there is “little evidence for the effectiveness of pharmaceutical CBD or medicinal cannabis for the treatment of any of these mental health disorders.”
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In fact, those products were discovered to have little more effect on the brain than, say, a placebo pill would have, which is odd, considering placebo pills are made precisely for the purpose of doing ... nothing at all.
“Clinicians and consumers need to be aware of the low quality and quantity of evidence for the effectiveness of medicinal cannabinoids in treating mental disorders and the potential risk of adverse events,” said senior researcher Louisa Degenhardt via HealthDay.
By “adverse effects,” Degenhardt means the worsening of those mental illnesses. The study’s authors found that medical pot has the potential of exacerbating the very conditions it is intended to improve, though it’s hard to say for sure, since the field remains largely under-researched.
That seems to be the primary takeaway: that there just isn’t enough good research to prove medical weed and cannabinoids can ease mental illness symptoms.
Because of this dearth of research, the study’s authors concluded that “there remains insufficient evidence to provide guidance on the use of cannabinoids for treating mental disorders within a regulatory framework.”
The researchers did find some positive evidence throughout their research process, though it proved to be mostly inconclusive. Some studies, for example, found pharmaceutical CBD-THC could ease symptoms of anxiety and PTSD.
This couldn’t be confirmed, though, since in these cases, the mental health concerns were only secondary symptoms of another diagnosis, which meant they were being indirectly affected by medicinal pot.
One of the problems is that those non-medicinal cannabinoids — the ones whose claims have not been validated by substantive research — seem to be experiencing quite a cultural moment, in spite of research showing how non-medicinal marijuana can worsen symptoms of mental illness, the study’s authors note.
Lists of the best THC and CBD products for anxiety can be found everywhere. There are CBD oils and CBD gumdrops and CBD cocktails and CBD bath bombs. There are CBD moisturizers and CBD lubricants. There are even CBD treats for dogs, since dogs can get anxious, too. Many people self-treat with products like this — minus the dog thing — though little research exists substantiating what they claim to achieve.
Still, the study’s authors aren’t arguing that there are no benefits at all to marijuana or cannabinoids. They’re just saying they don’t know how effective they are at treating mental health issues.
However, they did find research which proved that marijuana products could treat things like chronic pain, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, and nausea caused by chemotherapy. The products aren’t useless — they’re just unverified.
“I hope that this paper will inspire better work, including large-sample randomized clinical trials where cannabinoids serve as a treatment for people whose primary diagnoses include each of the disorders mentioned,” said Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the University at Albany, via HealthDay.
“Unfortunately, I would guess that headlines worldwide will claim directly or indirectly that cannabinoids are no help, but in fact, we don’t know if they do or not.”