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Medical Cannabis And Mental Health

Can using cannabis medicinally trigger mental health issues requiring hospitalisation? A recent study would seem to suggest the risks are low.

Back in February this year, a British psychiatrist claimed:

“If 100 people smoke cannabis with 15 percent THC content every day, five of them will develop frank [i.e., blatant] clinical psychosis; if they smoke cannabis containing 30 percent THC every day, then 10 of them will develop psychosis. This compares with 1 percent risk in the general population. For comparison — in 100 tobacco smokers, about 10 will get lung cancer.”

But what happens in a scenario where cannabis has been prescribed for medicinal purposes?

Canadian researchers examined rates of emergency department visits and hospitalizations through cannabis “poisoning” and related mental health disorders among medically authorized patients in Ontario, Canada, between 2014 and 2017. Of 23,091 patients included in the study, and a median follow-up of 240 days:

  • 14 patients visited an ED or were hospitalized for cannabis poisoning
  • 26 patients visited the ED or were hospitalized for mental and behavioral disorders attributed to cannabis use

… so, far less than 1 per cent.

“The results suggest that the incidence of cannabis poisoning or cannabis-related mental and behavioral disorders was low among patients who were authorized to use cannabis for medical care,” stated the researchers.

So, that’s encouraging – particularly given how accessible medical cannabis is in Canada. But cannabis medicines come in different forms and strengths. Some are cannabidiol (CBD) based and have low or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); the latter being the intoxicating cannabinoid. The study doesn’t differentiate or even mention the compounds..

Regardless, it seems to come back to the old maxims of “the dose makes the poison” and “everything in moderation”. There’s also a saying about using medical cannabis that has relevance here; which is: “start low and go slow”.

This is why it’s important for people who are considering using cannabis medicinally to get expert advice and monitoring from a suitably qualified and knowledgeable health professional.

Thankfully, as time goes by more doctors are seeking education on medical cannabis. It’s not as difficult as it once was to find someone who can assist; depending on your country and local laws.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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