The study’s lead investigator Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, explains that the study found that some people might actually already be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce use of substances that are more harmful, such as opioid pain medication.
The study consisted of a comprehensive review of research on mental health and medical cannabis use. Some evidence was also found that cannabis might help with symptoms of PTSD, depression, and social anxiety. The review did however conclude that cannabis use should not be recommended for conditions such as psychosis and bipolar disorder.
Walsh noted that evidence on medical cannabis is limited, but that is does appear that those who have for years advocated for cannabis as a tool for mental health and harm reduction, may have some valid points. All studies of medical cannabis and mental health, as well as reviews on non-medical cannabis use were reviewed by Walsh’s team. This makes the review one of the most comprehensive on the topic to date.
It is possible that marijuana will be legalized in Canada as early as next year. With that being a possibility, it is important to identify ways to help mental health professionals to move beyond the stigma attached to the drug, and to understand the risk and benefits of cannabis better.
Walsh added that clear guidance on how mental health professionals can best work with people who are using cannabis for medical purposes does not really exist.
Simply telling people to stop using may no longer be a feasible option with the end of prohibition. This means that knowing how to view cannabis in the treatment equation will become a requirement.
The full study was published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review.