Science & Tech

Cannabis Use: Implications for Psychiatry

  • Cannabis (Cannabis sativa) has long piqued psychiatrists’ interest because to its effects on mood and cognition, encouraging study into potential therapeutic applications for illnesses such as schizophrenia and mood disorders. 

What is cannabis?

  • Cannabis, popularly known as marijuana, weed, pot, or ganja, is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family.
  • It is most recognised for its euphoric qualities, which stem from the presence of chemicals like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • This THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, producing a variety of effects such as relaxation, euphoria, changed perception of time, and increased appetite.
  • The plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, the most well-known and studied of which are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

Why are we discussing this?

  • Researchers at the University of British Columbia launched a clinical research to investigate the efficacy of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating bipolar depression, which shows promise for dealing with depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.
  • While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the predominant psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, CBD has received interest because to its possible antipsychotic and neuroprotective properties. 

Understanding the Cannabinoid System

  • The human cannabinoid system, consisting of CB1 and CB2 receptors, regulates different biological functions such as pain, memory, and appetite. THC has a significant impact on motor control and memory.
  • Endo-cannabinoid System (ECS): Endogenous chemicals control neurotransmitter activity, which influences mood and cognitive activities.

Therapeutic Applications

  • Medical Applications: THC and synthetic cannabinoids are used to promote hunger, relieve nausea, and control pain associated with illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer.
  • Addiction and Withdrawal: There is debate about THC’s addictive potential, with animal studies indicating addictive responses and withdrawal symptoms after high use.

Psychiatric Implications

  • Mood Effects: Cannabis’ impact on mood is varied, with stories suggesting links to depression and bipolar disorder, while comprehensive scientific testing is absent.
  • Individuals with psychotic diseases, such as schizophrenia, are more susceptible to cannabis-induced psychotic symptoms, with childhood cannabis usage potentially hastening the onset of schizophrenia in genetically sensitive people. 

Policy considerations

  • Global Trends: The global trend of legalising medical and recreational cannabis emphasises the importance of educated policymaking to reduce dangers, particularly for vulnerable groups like children and those with mental conditions.
  • Decriminalisation Debate: Broader decriminalisation debates require measures to avoid commercialization and maintain protections against misuse, with a focus on protecting vulnerable elements of society.


  • Navigating the complexity of cannabis needs a balanced approach that maximises its therapeutic potential while mitigating related hazards through evidence-based policies and clinical interventions. 

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