If I choose to use cannabis, how can I take care of my mental health?

Bell Let's Talk and Cannabis Use

Well, well, we are delighted you asked.

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an opportunity for everyone to join the conversation around mental health and mental illness. We know that the more we open up about any hard topic as individuals, communities and a society, the easier it becomes to recognize those tough spots in ourselves, our friends and family members, and to take care of each other better. The crummy part is that change is hard, and talking about things that have been off-limits for a long time takes a lot of courage and encouragement. Our dearly departed David Bowie would tell us that ch-ch-ch-changes are when we should “turn and face the strange,” but that is easier said than done for many of us. Luckily, Bell Let’s Talk Day gives us all a chance to be brave like Dave. #bebravelikedave

It’s also a time of significant societal change with the recent legalization of cannabis, which has opened up a whole other conversation around mental health and mental illness. There are a lot of unknowns about how this is going to unfold for the health and wellbeing of people & communities, not to mention the systems and institutions we all live, work and play in on a daily basis (health care, justice, education, employment, business, recreation, etc….). But we thought today would be a good time to talk about some of the things we do know about how to take care of your mental health if you choose to use cannabis.

[Quick sidebar about the difference between mental health and mental illness, compliments of your friendly local mental health promotion planner.

  • Mental illnesses are diagnosable and most often-treatable conditions - for example, depression, anxiety, other mood disorders, or psychosis.
  • Mental health is a resource that can be achieved by everyone, including people with mental illnesses. It is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being.

The impacts of cannabis use on each person will be different, depending on the presence/absence of mental illness, as well as their level of mental health – among other confounding risk and protective factors. Sidebar over.]

So - the very short story from the experts on cannabis use and taking care of your mental health is that we need to do more research to understand it better (surprise, surprise). Still, the evidence we do have is clear about a couple of things. Drum roll please…

  • Young people (anyone under 25) should limit use, and especially frequent daily use, to support optimal mental health and wellness because their brains are still developing
  • People who have a family history of psychosis are at increased risk of developing psychosis themselves if they use cannabis
  • Different strains of cannabis have different levels of THC (the chemical that causes cannabis users to feel “high”) and CBD (a compound that has no hallucinogenic effect) - these different strains will have different impacts on health depending upon medical history, age of use, and the potency of the cannabis
  • CBD is considered to be less harmful than THC when it comes to mental health, and is being researched for potential medical uses related to mental illness – but there are no conclusions here and more research is needed
  • The earlier and more frequently a person uses cannabis (especially with higher THC levels) the greater risk for mental health challenges down the road

There is no easy answer because every person comes to the table with their own story, but being mindful and doing some research can go a long way in preventing challenges with mental health and mental illness. If you choose to use cannabis, be smart about it – consider the mental health history of yourself and your family (especially if there is a history of psychosis), and know the strain you are using and its levels of THC and CBD. If you are a new user, start low and go slow. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Oh, and there are some really great resources available to learn more and keep the conversation going. Here are just a few to get the wheels turning.

If you need mental health support right now

Never be afraid to reach out for help. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength. You don’t have to face your struggles alone, and there is support nearby. If you are facing an emergency, call 911, go to your local hospital Emergency Room or call the Crisis Response Helpline at (807) 346-8282. Here are some other places to get help.

 

Thoughts? Questions? Agree? Disagree? We want to hear what you have to say! Drop a comment below or shoot us a private message on our Facebook page and we can keep the conversation going. 

 

This blog post was written in collaboration with Julie Kivinen, Health Promotion Planner.