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Reading of the Week: Cannabis for Mental Illness: Popular and Promoted by Industry – But Evidenced? The New Lancet Psychiatry Paper

From the Editor

“It’s the only thing that helps with my anxiety.”

It’s closing in on midnight, and the ED patient I’m seeing is adamant that cannabis has helped him with his generalized anxiety disorder. My day has been long, but I choose to push a bit. Why cannabis? He notes how challenging it was to access mental health care. When he finally did see a psychiatrist, he feels he was offered a prescription after only a few minutes, and the trial of sertraline left him feeling more anxious. Cannabis, in contrast, helps him sleep and takes an edge off the anxiety.

More and more, our patients are talking up cannabis. Google “medical marijuana,” and there are over 166 million hits. And, yes, industry has noticed. There are a half a dozen cannabis dispensaries within a 10-minute walk from the CAMH ED, where I work. In the spring, a former prime minister joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana company, explaining that he was excited by the potential of cannabis to treat PTSD.

But is any of this evidence based?

This week, we look at a new paper from The Lancet Psychiatry. University of New South Wales’ Nicola Black and her co-authors do a systematic review and meta-analysis. Considering a variety of psychiatric disorders including depression, they draw on the literature to try to understand the effectiveness and safety of cannabinoids. “There is scarce evidence to suggest that cannabinoids improve depressive disorders and symptoms, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or psychosis.”

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We consider this big paper on the hot topic.

We also discuss the comment paper that accompanies this study. Yale University’s Deepak Cyril D’Souza writes: “The process of drug development in modern medicine is to first demonstrate efficacy and safety in clinical trials before using the drug clinically. With cannabinoids, it seems that the cart (use) is before the horse (evidence).” For the record, I don’t think Acreage Holdings will be distributing either paper to shareholders.

Please note that there will be no Reading next week.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Is Cannabis Helpful? Can We Prevent Depression? What’s It Like to be Depressed & in Medicine?

From the Editor

In most Readings of the Week, a paper or essay is selected and then discussed. This week, we return to an older format, and look at several selections, offering an overview of a few topics.

The selections ask thought-provoking questions:

Is cannabis helpful?

Can we prevent depression?

What’s it like to be depressed – and in medicine?

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Cannabis: Hype or Help?

Enjoy.

DG

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