Cannabis and mental health?
The following blog is personal opinion based on multiple studies and personal experience.
I have made no attempt at hiding my past while starting The Grey Space Organisation. My experiences throughout my life has been what has given me an extraordinary way to connect to others and help guide them into the right direction to things that will be beneficial to their mental health or illness. I wrote this blog months ago unsure if it was appropriate to post. Wondering what people would think of me as a person in mental health that used to be a drug user. Over the last few days with more and more conversations around cannabis I have realised that it is something that’s effects people and as a person who promotes peer support and lived experience Its perfectly ok to share my cannabis story and my thoughts on it and how it effects on mental illness.
I started young, around 13 years old, what started as an experimental teen thing to do spurred on by peer pressure from a friend’s older brother quickly turned into the thing that stopped the relentless noise in my head for the first time since I could remember.
Many people have said and will probably continue to say it into the future that the reason my Bi-Polar was brought on was because I was a cannabis user from a young age. Yes, there have been studies that say cannabis can bring on the illness. But in my case, this is most certainly wrong. My bipolar was brought on when I was 5 or 6 my life changed dramatically when it became Public knowledge that my mother’s Father, and I use the word Father very loosely, had sexually molested some of his children and turns out some of their friends. Not to mention the systematic physical and mental child abuse the entire family sustained.
The sudden disappearance of my grandparents and the subsequent loss of what was essentially a tight knit extended family as they all scrambled to make sense of the world, my parents reeling from the news. I still remember sitting with my aunty Kerry, she made us cups of tea and attempted to explain what was going on. It shook everyone, obviously some worse than others but to some degree it was traumatic to everyone. Especially a 6-year-old whose life changed forever.
Back to the cannabis. It soon became a constant in my life, all through my high school years. Good for the noise while I was high, not so good for the grades as you could imagine. When I look back on those years when I wasn’t high I was already exhibiting manic behaviours and some definite manic / psychotic episodes. I remember once opening the door of my mum’s car and jumping out of it while it was moving. I put my mum through hell with my episodes, we didn’t know they were episodes back then, so I was just a horrid teenager.
Mum, if you are reading this, I am sorry…
For all the crazy over the top horridness that was on the outside though, what was going on inside my mind was a thousand times worse, so I smoked pot as often as I could to numb it. Occasionally though, it would make it worse. My thoughts would race on and turn suicidal very quickly, as time went on this happened more and more. By the time I was 16 or 17 I had moved on to alcohol, and after that to chemical drugs to numb the noise, but that is another story.
Fast forward long after I quit weed, stopped drinking alcohol and have been in recovery from illicit drug use almost 10 years. My mother has a rare blood cancer, poly cythemia Vera, a red blood cell mutation, she had 2 lots of cancer (thyroid and breast) and she has a Neurological disease called Fibro myalgia which causes constant pain, cognitive impairment and a whole list of shit you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy and Which the FDA in the USA lists cannabis as one of the 3 approved treatments. Mum refuses to try it cos its illegal but I researched the hell out of it, read everything I could get my hands-on books, studies, articles pros and cons I devoured the information. It was clear that cannabis would help my mother experience a great quality of life if it was to be legalised for medicinal use and made accessible to her without breaking the bank. During all that reading I did there was always question marks over cannabis and mental health, some studies say its great for PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and some say it makes it worse. Bi-polar, never really came up during the studies and if it did It was always not enough evidence either way and left a question mark about it.
Remembering back to the beginning when I was young, cannabis had stopped the noise in my head I wanted to give it another try being mentally ill sometimes you just want quality of life and you are willing to try anything to get it even for a short time. So, I decided to try cannabis again.
A massive part of the prohibition of cannabis in Australia means that what is accessible is in our country is low quality and full of chemicals. It is predominantly supplied by criminal organisations who most definitely do not care about cannabises medicinal qualities. This means what is available, is unknown strains and full of chemicals called PGR’s or Plant Growth Regulators. These chemicals are extremely harmful causing intestinal issues all the way through to cancers and mental health issues.
This should be the first reason to NOT try to treat your mental illness no matter what it is in Australia with illegally purchased cannabis. The 2nd is the inability to purchase illness specific strains of cannabis, a strain that is good for pain may be detrimental to your mental health. And a strain that is good for inflammation may not help you to sleep. You cannot treat your anxiety and depression with strains that are not illness specific to anxiety and depression and with the PGR’s on top of that you’re just wasting your time.
I did however, manage to get a few strains that where close enough to illness specific as well as one that was meant to be good for depression. Uplifting so to speak. My experiment ended almost as fast as it began. Although a heavy Indica did stop the noise in my head once the effects had worn off the noise came back just as quick as they left. And the “uplifting” Sativa strains well these where the worst, their psychoactive properties put my bipolar mind into over drive and on two occasion put me into hyper manic states. Being Bipolar means that everything we do is magnified, our lows are magnified, and our highs are magnified to extremes. So when we smoke cannabis our moods are affected and in a massvive way, an Indica will put me to sleep very fast, and the effects take a long time to wear off. on the opposite side while a sativa will put a normal person into a happy euphoric mood, it will put bi polar mind into a mess of racing thoughts of the bad things in your life and in my experience fed my suicidal thoughts. I was not willing to keep trying nor will i ever try again, cannabis was no good for me it was clear. Knowing what I know now and understanding more it was clearly no good for me when I was teenager either.
I have since found better ways to deal with my mental illness and specifically the noise in my head, it’s hard work and takes up a lot of my time and includes self-care, psychotherapy and in my case medication. But to have a little clarity and quality of life without mental illness destroying everything good, its worth it. To all you pro cannabis for mental health people. Sorry not sorry, I just do not agree with you.
Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019