A new study reports that cannabis use may help free people of their addictions to alcohol and opioids.
The research team, led by Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Colombia (UBC), studied 60 articles on both therapeutic and non-therapeutic cannabis use related to mental health.
"Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication," Dr. Walsh told the UBC public affairs team.
The study reported that cannabis has also be found to be useful in treating mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Citing research on recreational use of cannabis, the study argued that cannabis is ineffective in treating psychotic disorders. Cannabis use may also impair short-term memory and other cognitive functions.
Nonetheless, the study concludes that cannabis use does not harm the user or other people.
UBC reports this study to be the most thorough systematic review on cannabis use to treat mental disorders to date.
However, Dr. Walsh and his team found that high-quality research on medical cannabis use for mental disorders was scarce. Hence the study called for more research on cannabis use to treat mental health conditions.
Delivering his Ted Talk in 2014, Dr. Walsh cited his review of 600 medical cannabis users suffering from conditions for which people typically take pharmaceutical products.
"People with serious conditions like cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, chronic pain," Dr. Walsh told the Ted audience. "And what we found was that in addition to treating the distinct features of these disorders, people were using cannabis for three primary reasons: to help sleep, to reduce pain, and to alleviate anxiety."
Since billions of dollars each year are spent on pharmaceutical medications that are "problematic" to treat such conditions, Dr. Walsh and his team were to explore cannabis use to treat people without pain but suffer from anxiety.
A follow up study found that cannabis helped ease symptoms of anxiety amongst people who were in pain and trying their best to endure it.
"We also found that amongst the people for whom cannabis was most effective nearly 80 percent reported that cannabis allowed them to be more active despite the pain," Dr Walsh said. "And also 85 percent said that cannabis helped them think less about the pain."