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Medical Marijuana May Lead to Cannabis Use Disorder


Medical Marijuana May Lead to Cannabis Use Disorder


There have been claims going around for years that cannabis may effectively treat anxiety, depression, and many other health conditions. However, there aren't sound scientific studies or proofs to back such claims.

Instead, contrary to the claim, new research suggests that marijuana for medical use may lead to the rapid onset of cannabis use disorder (CUD). Furthermore, the study found that cannabis products do not effectively treat pain, anxiety, or depression but double the risks of addiction to marijuana (CUD). And sadly, most people under legal medical marijuana prescription choose their own products and dose, which often leads to abuse.

Without a doubt, medical professionals would need to stringently follow up with patients on marijuana prescriptions to ensure they do not cause more harm than good.


The Research

The study was conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and published in JAMA Network Open.

The trial, which began in 2017, involved 269 adults from the greater Boston area interested in acquiring a medical marijuana card (MMC). While one group got their MMC immediately, another group had to wait for 12 weeks. This second group served as a control, and the researchers monitored both groups over that 12-week period.

The researchers found that the risk of developing marijuana addiction was almost two times higher in the first group than in the control group. The logic is simple: those who had their cards had access to marijuana products, while the control group that waited didn't. By the 12th week, 10% of the MMC group had developed a CUD diagnosis, and about 20% were those using marijuana products for anxiety and depression.

While some of the participants with insomnia claim to have experienced better sleep, the vast majority with pain, anxiety and depression reported no improvements after using medical marijuana.

In a significant minority, using prescribed cannabis led to the onset of cannabis use disorder (CUD). And quite notably, those who are at the highest risk of CUD are those who use the substance to seek relief from pain, anxiety, and depression.

This is disturbing. Why? Because individuals with anxiety and depression are those who cannabis is most often prescribed for. If the consequences are this dire, then whatever benefits medical marijuana may offer become microscopic.

When someone gets addicted to cannabis (i.e., suffers from CUD), they require more of the substance to overcome drug tolerance, and they continue using it despite the negative experiences they may be having.


Why These Findings Matter

Medical cannabis use has gone widespread in the United States, and 36 states, including DC, have commercialized its use. Outlets dispense cannabis products to patients who come bearing medical marijuana cards.

Although each card must have written approval, this approval is usually by a cannabis professional who isn't the patient's primary care provider. Hence, such professionals may only conduct a single examination and go-ahead to prescribe cannabis, but they don't get to do follow-ups or suggest alternative treatment methods.

The result is that the patient develops health conditions over time without the awareness of whoever prescribed the drug for them.

The bottom line is that, while cannabis may offer some benefits, it puts patients at risk, especially those currently battling anxiety and depression. Therefore, stringent measures must be implemented to regulate how patients choose their cannabis products and dosing.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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