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URMC / BHP / BHP Blog / November 2019 / Cannabis Use: What You Need to Know

Cannabis Use: What You Need to Know

By: Megan Maurer, NP

Cannabis use is a growing interest among the medical community and patients. There are many different opinions and information available regarding cannabis use. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

What kinds of conditions can cannabis be used to treat?

Many states in the U.S. allow cannabis use to treat certain diseases and conditions. Some of these include, Alzheimer disease, sclerosis, cancer, Crohn disease, seizures, glaucoma, hepatitis, AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS) with muscle spasticity, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, and posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Is using cannabis safe and effective?

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) conducted and published a review on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. Overall, this drug is most effective in treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and muscle spasticity for those individuals with MS. Evidence showed correlation between cannabis and serious issues like respiratory disease, motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), lower birth weight offspring, and schizophrenia or other psychoses. 

Should I talk to my doctor about using cannabis?

Consulting your medical provider is always an important first step before starting a new drug or medication. Caution should be used with individuals under the age of 25. The brain is still developing at this age, and the long-term impact of cannabis on cognitive performance is still unknown.

How does it work?

Cannabis works by targeting the centers of the brain to trigger the release of dopamine. 
This creates the feeling of well-being, relaxation, friendliness but also causes loss of awareness, confusion with time, and slowing thought process. In large amounts and with chronic use, it can cause panic, delirium, and psychosis. 

Are there long-term complications?

A common complication of long-term cannabis use is "amotivational syndrome" which includes decreased drive to complete daily tasks. This can often mimic the common symptoms of depression or worsen already present symptoms. Other complications may include lack of attention, poor judgement, impaired communication, and added isolation. 

Cannabis use and intoxication can negatively affect how your mind and body work. Many who use it frequently do so in order to cope with their mood, lack of sleep, pain or other psychological issues. Research has shown that cannabis use often contributes or worsens the very same symptoms individuals are using it to treat.

Studies have shown that using cannabis can lead to poorer life satisfaction, increased mental health treatment, more hospitalizations, and higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, and conduct disorders.

Can someone withdraw from cannabis?

Withdrawal from cannabis can cause distress and make it difficult for individuals who currently use the drug to stop. Trying to quit this drug may cause someone to feel irritable, angry, anxious, depressed, restless, lose sleep and have a decreased appetite for a couple of weeks.

How to Know If You Have a Cannabis Use Disorder

  • Unable to cut down or stop using
  • Spend a lot of time trying to obtain cannabis
  • Recurrent use of cannabis to the point of incompletion of tasks
  • Strong cravings
  • Give up activities you once enjoyed to use cannabis
  • Cannabis use continues despite understanding of impacts on health
  • Continued use despite problems at work or home
  • Cannabis used to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved ones’ cannabis use, your primary care doctor or Life-Work Connections/EAP can help with connections for resources in the community. If you are feeling the strain of supporting someone with a substance use disorder, EAP and/or Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) can help provide you with emotional support and the mental health services you need.

Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.

Keith Stein | 11/1/2019

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