In our modern world, one of the greatest issues facing mankind is the ever-increasing prevalence of mental health issues and the impact it has on our collective well-being. Pressures from social media, increasingly assessment-driven education and the realities of living in a society where cash is king leave many people isolated, disaffected and confused. More young people than ever before are being diagnosed with, among other conditions, anxiety and depression, and frequently the treatment pathways for those affected are over-subscribed and/or reliant on pharmaceuticals which can often lead to additional health concerns when used for an extended period. Various studies have been conducted in the hope of finding a ‘best fit’ for people who suffer from mental health issues, yet an increasing number of researchers and patients are reporting that there are some incredibly positive links between cannabis and a reduced stress level in some sufferers. Although this is still in the early stages of research, is there enough evidence to provide hope for the future?
Human beings are incredibly adept creatures and the natural balance of chemicals within our bodies fluctuates in response to our environment. In essence, we are capable of ‘self-medicating’ when we are in sync with the world around us (in terms of food, habitat and basic primal needs) as the chemicals released by our brain and glands should create a stable internal environment that allows us to function in a ‘normal’ manner. When we focus only on our animal needs we are relatively simple organisms who don’t need much to keep us motivated and satisfied, however, we live in an increasingly man-made environment where natural order has been replaced with man-made stresses that do not translate to our underlying physiology: maintaining a work/life balance; meeting targets and expectations in school and work; fitting into ever-evolving social groups etc. The result of this is that more than 40 million Americans are currently taking antidepressants and more than 35 million are using anti-anxiety medication.
The majority of these medicines fall into the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which act by blocking the brain’s ability to reabsorb serotonin. Serotonin, which is one of the body’s natural mood enhances, usually occurs at a base level and then peaks when we experience happiness and satisfaction. Sufferers of depression and anxiety find that their internal balance is offset and they frequently have a lower-level than is healthy, which causes them to feel ‘down’ and worried. Because of this causing them to fall into routines of self-doubt and often lethargy, the body does not have the chance to boost levels naturally and they fall into a negative loop. Most major pharmaceutical companies develop SSRIs with the aim of blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in order to force the brain to produce more. By tricking the brain into producing additional serotonin, the idea is that the body will flood its own system with a mood-enhancer and alleviate suffering. Overall, these medications have mixed results with some patients reporting that there is little-to-no noticeable change to their condition. Unfortunately, there are very few alternative therapies that are freely available and/or affordable.
Horrifyingly, statistics suggest that the people who are treated in this way are at severe risk of suffering side-effects which may be worse than the effects of the mental health issues they are being treated for. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in patients who suffer from anxiety and depression, yet research indicates that the number of related suicides appears to be increasing as the level of prescribed medicines increases. Furthermore, stories are often shared from sufferers who express that the medication they are prescribed leaves them feeling ‘brain dead’ and ‘zombie-like’ when all they want is to lead a life of relative normality. This leaves many sufferers in a quandary: which is the worse way to exist?
Contrastingly, CBD has shown incredibly promising results in research trials. During testing on mice under laboratory conditions it has been recorded that CBD acts incredibly quickly and results in the mice showing clear signs of reduced hyperactivity and less sporadic actions. With more and more research evidence coming to light to suggest that CBD is indeed the wonder-compound it has long been hypothesised as scientists are understandably keen to move these studies forward however there is still the ongoing issue of CBD being registered as a controlled substance in many parts of the world. Reform is always being fought for and it now seems like one of the biggest threats to our collective well-being could be countered with great success if our scientists were freed from their political shackles and allowed to pursue their lines of enquiry.
Furthermore, anecdotal evidence from many independent users increasingly indicates that CBD is a viable solution to many of the problems people with anxiety and depression face. In states where medicinal marijuana has been made available there are countless cases of people celebrating their escape from the world of pharmaceutically-induced ailments and some people have even reported that they have replaced a myriad of medication with simple marijuana. Even more important is the change to people’s lives when they come to appreciate the lack of side-effects of CBD. For those people who feel trapped between the impact of their medication and the void that exists without some kind of intervention, it’s understandable that they see CBD as some kind of divine gift of nature. How can we still live in a world where people are denied access to something which grows naturally?
In conclusion, it seems like the answer to many of our problems comes from moving away from the world we have created for ourselves in order to re-establish our connection with the world that first gave us life. All too often we stare at our screens and hide ourselves away from the wonders of the world outside, yet this leads us towards more problems instead of valid solutions. More than ever we need to find our way back to our roots and focus on the positives instead of the negatives, and the only way to do that is to disconnect from our perceived reality and reconnect with ourselves.