Help us support local, independent news.
100% of reader donations support our local journalists.
For less than a subscription to the Journal for one reader, you can keep our news free for everyone in ABQ.
Scientists Say Cannabis Can Help Treat Depression
Weed Can Be Used To Treat Mental Health Disorders
If you haven’t noticed yet, the entire world is bummed. COVID-19 has killed a lot of people and made even more people sick. For everyone else it’s been a nightmare of anxiety, impatience and incredible boredom. It’s no wonder that depression and suicides are on the rise.
But marijuana is offering patients a respite from the darkness. A study from researchers at the University Of New Mexico has found that cannabis might be an effective treatment for symptoms associated with depression.
The study was recently published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Using the Releaf app, researchers were able to collect data from cannabis patients regarding their use of cannabis as a treatment for depression and its related symptoms.
Researchers reviewed 5,876 reports made by 1,819 individuals and concluded that patients reported experiencing improvement of their symptoms by nearly four points on a scale of zero to 10, just moments after consuming cannabis flower.
We spoke to one of the study’s authors, Jacob Vigil, a Psychology Associate Professor at UNM. He said, “The major takeaways for this study are that cannabis is effective and relatively fast acting for improving immediate symptoms of depression, which should be promising news for the millions of people struggling with depression that have failed to benefit from conventional antidepressant pharmaceutical drugs or people that have deemed the negative side effects of the drugs to outweigh their overall effectiveness.”
This data might be particularly helpful in today’s climate. Depression, suicide and suicidal ideation are on the rise in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data, symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder “increased considerably” in the United States between April and June, compared with the same period in 2019.
New Mexico has had one of the highest suicide rates in the nation for a number of years. In 2018 those numbers increased dramatically, and New Mexico reported the highest suicide rate in the entire country. With increasing lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate, that number is set to break records this year. According to KOAT New Mexico communities are already reporting higher suicide numbers than last year.
Cannabis could probably help affect those rates if it was more accessible to New Mexicans. There are currently 28 qualifying conditions that will give patients access to the state’s medical cannabis program. Depression is not one of those conditions. In fact the list is fairly slim when it comes to mental health disorders. Perhaps it’s time for state health officials to review what we’ve learned in recent years about marijuana’s beneficial effects on mental health and consider updating the list of qualifying conditions to include depression and anxiety disorders.
Navajo Nation Sues Hemp Farmers
The dramatic struggle between tribal leaders and illegal hemp farmers continues in New Mexico.
Last month the Navajo Nation redefined the meaning of “marijuana” under the tribe’s criminal code to include all parts of the cannabis plant, officially outlawing hemp. This followed a weeks-long battle between Navajo Nation leaders and tribal member Dineh Benally, who was allegedly operating illegal hemp and marijuana farms on tribal land.
Last week the Navajo Nation Department of Justice announced a lawsuit naming 33 defendants accused of leasing their lands to hemp farmers.
“Despite legislation that clearly illegalizes hemp and marijuana on the Navajo Nation, many farmers have chosen to jeopardize their farms and the health of the community by growing and producing hemp and marijuana for personal gain,” Attorney General Doreen McPaul said in a press release.
Searchlight New Mexico recently reported that Navajo Nation Police have made 38 arrests and seized “thousands of pounds” of black market cannabis since Oct. 20. The department has reportedly run out of space to store the contraband.
Study: OCD Symptoms Reduce with Weed Use
A study has found evidence that symptoms associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder can be treated with whole-flower cannabis.
A new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that patients who self-identified as suffering from OCD and smoked marijuana reported an average 60 percent reduction in compulsions, 49 percent reduction in intrusive thoughts and 52 percent reduction in anxiety following a smoke session. “The number of cannabis use sessions across time predicted changes in intrusions, such that later cannabis use sessions were associated with smaller reductions in intrusions,” the study’s authors wrote. Higher concentrations and doses of CBD predicted larger reductions in compulsions.
The study was conducted over 31 months and analyzed 1,810 smoke sessions from 87 patients. According to the authors, it was limited by its sample—which was self-selected and self-identified as having OCD—and did not have a controlled placebo group to compare results with.
As with the story above, this study adds to the growing body of literature that suggests that cannabis can be used to treat mental health disorders as well as physical ones. Hopefully our medical cannabis program officials will recognize the need to expand the list of qualifying conditions to include these illnesses as well. [ ]