Marijuana use and severe psychological distress linked

Published Apr 28, 2019 11:00 a.m. ET

Now that medical marijuana and recreational products are available in many regions of the world, there have been several cannabis research studies that imply a solid connection between marijuana use and individuals who were either diagnosed or showed signs of SPD (severe psychological distress). These results at first glance can be worrisome, but there are a few important facts that were left out of studies conducted so far, and we will touch on those a bit later. To begin, we will explain what SPD is, how this connection has been made, and who performed the research that resulted in these findings.

What is SPD?

Severe psychological distress is a term that is used by both doctors and specialist to describe a host of symptoms believed to be caused by a traumatizing, stressful, troubling, or confusing experience in their life.

The study

The most recent cannabis research to come out citing a link between marijuana use and severe psychological stress was conducted by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health who officially declared their findings on April 4 of 2019. 356413 adults were surveyed and measured according to the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. Information such as length of marijuana use, frequency of consumption, and other critical factors were included such as family status, financial security, and history of other substance abuse. What researchers found was that between 2008 and 2016 those who did display symptoms of SPD were also much more likely up to three times in fact to use either medical marijuana or recreational cannabis products. A rate of 8% with SPD admitted to marijuana use while only 2.7% without it consumed cannabis on any sort of regular basis. Cannabis researchers are now claiming to have found a link between mental illness and marijuana use as if the plant is solely responsible for the illness, but could these specialists be wrong?

What’s missing from this study

Cannabis research faces a lot of hurdles, but one of the most detrimental stems from old stereotypes that hold little truth and absolutely no relevance to real life legal marijuana use today. Unfortunately, scientists and doctors have spent so much time demonizing the plant and trying to find something wrong with its use, without any true understanding of the damage they might be causing. What is seldom factored into these studies, is the person’s reasons for choosing to use cannabis in the first place, and why it seems to be something consistently used by people with SPD. Rather than trying to find ways that a marijuana plant might cause such a diagnosis.

In conclusion

The fact is that medical marijuana has been available for quite some time, and most cannabis consumers have a personal reason for choosing to use the substance in the first place. The evidence is clear that the naturally produced cannabinoids can work even better than most prescribed pharmaceutical options with little side effects on ailments and symptoms of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, insomnia, pain, and more. All of which are often symptoms of mental illness, and in particular severe psychological distress. Though cannabis researchers have been able to establish a definitive connection between the two, correlation does not equal causation. The angle that is so very rarely investigated is that perhaps the reason these numbers tip in favor of those without SPD is because so many people are self-medicating quite effectively with marijuana use at home. One of the most significant and common issues for those with mental health troubles is the discomfort experienced when bringing themselves into a high-stress situation like a doctor’s office. Especially for those who have tried and got little to no results in return for the roller-coaster of emotions required for such a journey. Eventually, more research will need to be done over decades or longer to solidify this assumption, but there are many advocates and specialist who are beginning to realize that there is more to marijuana than a purely recreational high. This is a plant that has many medicinal uses that people have known about and used for hundreds of years prior to any law regulating the plant’s existence, so it makes sense that it’s a treatment rather than a cause in many cases.

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