Many people with anxiety disorders or depression benefit from weed, while there is also a link between cannabis use and psychosis. We will find out how that works for you in this article. In other words: the link between cannabis and mental health. Or should we say: the alliance between cannabis and mental health.
Mental health isn’t just a matter of therapy and medication using an oral or a CBD aliejus (CBD oil). We are learning more and more about the complex human brain. And so we also learn more about the origin of mental health problems and their treatment with medicinal cannabis.
The ECS and mental health
Several studies on the effect of medical marijuana have found a relationship between the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and our mental health. This is not surprising because the ECS is an essential mechanism for homeostasis. Or a healthy mental and physical balance. In order to maintain this balance, the ECS plays an important role. It affects our immune system, our perception of pain, our sleep, digestion, inflammatory responses, the repair of tissue damage, and our mental well-being. The ECS does all this with the help of three components:
- enzymes that break down or build up endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are the body’s own signaling substances that transmit messages in the endocannabinoid system. The recipients of these messages are called receptors. And then there are also enzymes that build up or break down endocannabinoids. Among other things, mental health problems can be caused by an imbalance in one of these three components.
What is special about this is that the active substances in cannabis are very similar to endocannabinoids. Just like the body’s own cannabinoids, they can communicate with the receptors of the ECS.
The CB1 receptor and mental health problems
Several human studies have shown that changes in the ECS are linked to depression. And especially changes in the so-called CB1 receptors.
The ECS has two types of receptors: CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are mainly located in the brain and therefore exert the most influence on it. CB2 receptors are found in all organs.
Research shows that patients with severe depression often have more CB1 receptors in certain brain areas. In these patients, the number of CB2 receptors is equal to that of a healthy person.
One of the possible biological explanations for this high concentration of CB1 receptors is errors in the genetic coding of the CB1 receptor. Researchers have discovered several types of ‘single-nucleotide polymorphies’. Or variations in the DNA of these receptors.
Gene mutations and mental health
One of those genetic mutations is common in individuals suffering from major depression, including psychotic symptoms. Another type of mutation seems to offer protection against severe depression in people with Parkinson’s disease. And still, other mutations are linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
One study underscores that CB1 receptors that communicate optimally are crucial for protection against PTSD. Brain scans of people with PTSD showed abnormal CB1 receptor function. Although CB2 receptors are not explicitly linked to mental health, the research did show a link. This study shows an error in a gene that encodes CB2 receptors. This error is linked to a higher incidence of depression. Other studies linked this genetic error to the development of eating disorders and schizophrenia.
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The role of enzymes
Enzymes are crucial for a well-functioning endocannabinoid system. They are involved in both the production and breakdown of endocannabinoids. Any change in enzyme levels can affect the number of endocannabinoids and thus improve or disrupt the functioning of receptors.
Depression and anxiety can result from a reduction in the fatty acid amide hydrolase enzyme (FAAH). This may be due to a traumatic experience, for example from childhood. Reductions in FAAH translate into increased anandamide levels.
Too much anandamide (AEA) can further lead to tolerance to this substance at CB1 receptors. This means that receptors become less sensitive to anandamide. Tolerance to anandamide can contribute to depression. Anandamide is a body’s own cannabinoid that contributes to a blissful feeling.
The right endocannabinoid levels
As you can see, there is a clear but complex link between the endocannabinoid system and our mental state. It is also clear that a well-functioning ECS is of great importance for good mental health. So clearly, in fact, that scientists suggest that the amount of anandamide and the endocannabinoid 2-AG are good markers for assessing a person’s mental health.
Medicinal cannabis for your brain
Anyway, what about the relationship between the above story and weed? As we noted at the beginning, the active ingredients in marijuana are very similar to our body’s own cannabinoids. It is not for nothing that they are both called ‘cannabinoids’. The active ingredients in cannabis are also called phytocannabinoid. ‘Phyto’ stands for plant or ‘cannabinoids from a plant’. Endo means ‘body’s own’, so cannabinoids that our body produces.
The psychoactive substance THC from cannabis shows similarities with the body’s own cannabinoid anandamide. And the effect of the body’s own 2-GP is also very similar to a number of components in cannabis, such as CBD.
And these are by no means the only two active substances. More than 100 plant cannabinoids have been identified. A number of them have been scientifically established to work extremely well with our ECS.
When properly dosed, plant cannabinoids are often able to repair an imbalance in the system. A shortage of cannabinoids can also be supplemented with medicinal weed. They can also affect the sensitivity of receptors and enzymes. Science still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, there is agreement among scientists about the beneficial effect of plant cannabinoids on the ECS.
To benefit from extra cannabinoids from weed, you don’t have to smoke joints all day. A few drops of CBD oil per day as a dietary supplement may be enough. This is also good as extra, preventive support. For serious complaints, you can use a stronger form, such as vaporizing weed or cannabis oil with a rich cannabinoid profile, including THC.