Cannabis for Complex Mental Health Conditions

When it comes to mental health concerns in Canada most of us have likely heard the statistic that 1 in 5 Canadians experience some sort of mental illness each year. But did you know that approximately 45 per cent of those people meet the criteria for two or more disorders? Complex symptoms make it challenging to diagnose these disorders as well as find an appropriate and effective treatment. 

Treatment for mental health conditions is often centred around prescription medication and therapy. Though a number are turning to cannabis as an alternative, or additional, treatment method for mental health and finding success. 

We spoke with a community member who would like to remain anonymous for safety reasons about their experience with cannabis use for their complex mental health.  

The Diagnosis

Diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), CPTSD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette, Polysubstance Abuse, Chronic Pain, exacerbated by the aforementioned diagnosis  

Symptoms: 

(BPD, CPTSd) Depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, self-harm, rapid mood changes, memory loss, disordered sleeping, disordered eating, impulsivity, confusion, intense emotions and lack of emotional regulation, chronic emptiness, paranoia, audio and visual hallucinations, trauma flashbacks, great sense of humour, rejection sensitivity, separation anxiety, executive dysfunction. 

(Tourettes, OCD) Involuntary movements, sounds, echoing, humming, vocalizing, and repetition of things witnessed. Violent ideation, impending doom, traumatic dreams. Hot and cold flashes. Sensory sensitivities 

(Polysubstance Abuse) wanting to do drugs, doing drugs, not feeling all that great after doing all the drugs. 

Medications: Quetiapine 25mg at night, testosterone weekly, lorazepam as needed, hydromorph as needed for pain

Current Treatment Methods

Daily methods: constantly consuming THC products, distractions, DBT therapy strategies such as TIP or tapping, connecting with loved ones, playing with my cat, showers to manage pain, muscle creams

Weekly: therapy with substance abuse counsellor for the past 2 yrs.

We will further explore the use of cannabis for treating their mental health after addressing alcohol consumption.

Mental Health and Alcohol 

I find alcohol increases my pain mentally and physically. I began drinking at a young age to cope but have reduced my alcohol consumption to none over the past 2 years.

Cannabis helped contribute to the choice as well as the process of becoming sober from alcohol. Consumption of cannabis was more tolerable long term and was an overall more enjoyable experience than drinking. Cannabis also provides a stress-relieving effect that made it easier to stop consuming alcohol. (It’s also cheaper). 

Read another story about cannabis and alcohol sobriety from Kaitie.

Cannabis for Complex Mental Health

Cannabis has been the most beneficial means of managing I have found in a lifetime of crisis management. It began as a relief in a time of crisis in my youth. It allowed me a few seconds to pause and take a moment to relax and slow the hundreds of conversations in my head. As my use increased I noticed my pain was more manageable, I would be able to eat or endure stressful times of my life because of the distraction the high gives me. It aids my sleep which I have struggled with since I was a child and prevents me from seeking out more harmful means of escape. 

cannabis and self-care

My negative symptoms associated with cannabis use are minimal. When I was struggling financially it was difficult to prioritize food over weed with how much cannabis benefited my day to day life. Every now and then I will feel a bit more anxious after smoking weed but then I will smoke a bit more and feel totally fine. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t in mental and physical pain and didn’t need to use it to manage my symptoms but that’s less about the cannabis itself.

Current Cannabis Routine

Typically, I stick to indica and indica hybrids, usually dabbing or vaporizing shatter and herb. I use THC and CBD creams and ingestible oils on my body daily to manage physical pain. I also bake with the leftover vaporized herbs. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep I am stoned and have been for a few years. I’ll smoke weed as a way to begin a new task or before leaving the house. 

Looking to start baking with cannabis but don’t know where to start? Try Miss Envy’s easy to use line of THC and CBD edible products and check out our continually growing catalogue of recipes.

THC olive oil

Personal Experience with Miss Envy Products

I’ve used the “buddha bar” for my neck and shoulder pain, and the “buddha buddha” to treat some eczema patches on my eyelids and sore hands. 

The packaging for both is aesthetically pleasing and easy enough to open. I struggled a bit to remove the plastic inserts that protect the product but can tell it’s well made and clean. 

The buddha bar is easy to apply and isn’t greasy, smells nice and works well to reduce pain. Compared to other pain creams it holds up well.

The buddha buddha cream didn’t irritate my eczema any further as other creams have. It absorbs into the skin nicely despite its greasier feel and also smells nice. I haven’t noticed as much pain-reducing effect from this product as the buddha bar but has been a nice product for skincare. 

Buddha Cannabis Topicals

Cannabis Drug Interactions

I began smoking weed before I was using any prescriptions to manage my symptoms and have not noticed much interaction. My medications are used predominantly for their sedating, anxiety-reducing, and pain-relieving effects, so any interaction with cannabis use that creates a more sedating effect than normal has been positive for me. Note: this may not be the case for everyone. 

It’s important to note that every person’s experience with cannabis and prescription medication is going to be different. If you’re going to be consuming cannabis in conjunction with prescription medication we advise that you speak to your doctor. 

Read more about cannabis and drug interactions on our blog. 

Advice for Others on Cannabis and Mental Health

I would tell those thinking about using cannabis for treating their mental health symptoms that they know their brain and needs better than anyone else. Also, I support them in finding things that might make life a little easier. Though it’s important to note for those who experience dissociative episodes I would warn them that cannabis could trigger those experiences or make them worse. 

I’d also tell them that although drugs can be helpful they can also be harmful. So, it’s good to find your comfort level and boundaries with each substance. Whether that’s related to the frequency of use or financial constraints. Some people may choose to consume cannabis daily, weekly, or even monthly, while others consume cannabis before almost any activity they engage in. It’s important to determine what works best for you and at what point cannabis consumption may become problematic and stick to those boundaries.  

Final Thoughts

Mental health is complex at the best of times, when a person finds themselves with numerous mental health diagnoses it becomes even more complicated. With multiple mental health conditions, it’s not only challenging to diagnose each condition because the symptoms may overlap but they’re also difficult to treat. Prescription medication can make a significant difference when it comes to mental health symptoms. That being said medications come with challenging side effects, particularly when a number of medications are used in combination. Some people find that adding cannabis into their mental health routine can help them to manage their symptoms. At times, cannabis use can also help reduce the number or amount of prescription medication.

When it comes to complex mental health conditions and the use of cannabis, there is no straight forward answer. It’s important to take the time to consider what’s best for you and potentially experiment. Though it’s important to speak to a doctor or mental health professional when using cannabis in combination with prescription medication.

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