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Mental Health and Cannabis in India

The debate as to whether Cannabis use should or should not be legalized in India continues to be a heated one. As a country where Cannabis has been used medicinally and for spiritual reasons for thousands of years, there is widespread support for loosening restrictions on the broader use of the herb. From a mental health perspective, there are also arguments for and counterarguments against making cannabis more freely available.

Even in countries that lack India’s long association with cannabis as a herbal medicine, its potential benefits to those suffering from stress-related mental disorders have been much discussed. There is even some research to support anecdotal reports of people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) feeling calmer and sleeping better when using herbal cannabis. 


However, not all herbs are equally potent, and nowhere is this truer than with Cannabis. With concentrations of cannabinoids ranging from hemp which has no psychoactive effect at all, to highly potent strains of Cannabis purpose-bred to deliver maximum THC and the new trend for making moon rocks that combine the herb with concentrates, it would be difficult to make truly scientific claims regarding the use of Cannabis to treat stress-related mental health disorders.

Against: Potentially Harmful to Mental Health

Then, there is the seemingly-contradictory fact that those unused to Cannabis commonly suffer from distressing panic attacks while under its influence. It is even conceivable that an already-vulnerable individual could suffer from lasting harm.

Some authorities point to selective plant breeding that has led to a much higher concentration of psychoactive THC in Cannabis during recent decades. They’re concerned that this could be harmful, particularly to young people. There are certainly studies pointing toward a greater potential for depression and anxiety in teenagers using Cannabis recreationally. 

Even more worrying is the prevalence of psychotic disorders in cannabis users. There is no proven cause-and-effect mechanism, but research indicates that, at the very least, those predisposed to mental health issues may be “pushed over the edge” by cannabis use.

Cannabis and Mental Health: Who is Correct?

It would be difficult to conclude whether cannabis is helpful or harmful to mental health without a great deal more research on the part of scientists. It seems that while it may be helpful to some people, it could be harmful to others, and the whole question becomes even more confusing when the diversity of the herb is added to the equation. 

It could well be that both sides of the argument are correct – depending on the circumstances, the form of Cannabis used, and other individualized factors. For now, it is best to proceed with caution acknowledging that the mental health question has no absolute answers at this stage. 


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