Mental Health

#005: Mental Health And Cannabis: Part 1

It is really important for us to start addressing the issue of mental health because I think that is as important as physical health. There is a big stigma around mental health, but with 2-7% of people suffering from major depression dying of suicide, we cannot afford to ignore this problem. Today in part one of my podcast on mental health, I’m going to talk about the types of mental health issues and their common symptoms. In part two, I will cover if and where cannabis could be used to treat mental health issues.

One of the reasons we are talking about all of these mental health disorders is that many of them are treated within the same class of medications. As they become more severe, a different class of drugs may be introduced to deal with the new symptoms. It is important to start slow with treatment, beginning with talk therapy, diet change, or more exercise before moving on to medication. As always, please consult with a physician about your condition.

Anxiety disorders come in many different forms, including panic disorder, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or phobia.

Schizoaffective disorders can manifest as manic depression, hallucination, disorganized thoughts, depression, or risky behavior. The cause of these disorders can be defective brain chemistry, stress, genetics, or drug induced (for example: LSD).

Depression is more than just being down or blue. It is no respecter of wealth, race, or gender. Up to 70% of women are more likely to suffer from depression than men. And up to 60% of young adults are more likely to from depression than people older than 50 years. We can see that depression disproportionately affects young women. Depression can also include postpartum depression or seasonal affective disorder.

In episode six, I will talk about how cannabis could be used to treat mental health disorders. It is important to remember that cannabis is a drug, and just like any other drug from the pharmacy, it also has side effects. I will definitely be talking about the side effects we know about in the next episode, so you do not want to miss that.

What’s Inside:​

  • I cover the major classifications of mental health disorders.
  • Why we need to remove the stigma around mental health.
  • Depression disproportionately affects the young and women.
  • How hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is currently being treated.
  • Why I say you should start slow and go slow with mental health treatment.

Listen And Learn


Download episode transcript in PDF format here…


This show is for educational purpose and should not be taken as medical advice. Welcome to Let’s Talk About Medical Weed with Dr. O, a clinical pharmacist certified in medical cannabis. Every week you’ll learn about alternative ways to improve your health and wellbeing using the healing power of botanicals such as cannabinoids. Here’s your host, Lola Ohonba.

Hi, welcome to this episode of Let’s Talk About Medical Weed with Dr. O. My name is Lola Ohonba. I am a clinical pharmacist certified in medical cannabis. I’m very excited that you are here with me today. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today.

This show is for you if you are a professional health care professional and you’re looking for evidence-based data to counsel your patients on cannabis and cannabinoids. This program is also for you if you are a young professional and you are looking for a means of replenishing lost energy during the day to day activities. And finally, the show is for you if you are looking for alternative means to manage your health and wellbeing. This show is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. So, if you need any medical advice, please consult with your physician.

Before I go on, let me say thank you to listeners that already subscribed to the show. If you already subscribed to the show, I would like to say thank you so much. If you are yet to subscribe to the show, please do so. And also, to patrons, thank you for your support. If you would like to support the show, you can see a patron link on the website, Thank you so much.

On today’s show we’ll be looking at the role of cannabis and cannabinoids in the maintenance and management of a mental health condition. I think it will be safe to say that all of us have experienced at one time or the other in our life, a sense of pure panic, anxiety, some form of fear in any form at all. Really anxiety or fear can actually be seen as part of human existence. It’s kind of a way that we protect ourselves from danger sometimes. So, there are some fear, anxiety, that is normal for human existence.

For example, if you are going in a dark alley, say you are a young woman going on the dark alley in the night, you can’t just be like, Oh, I’m cool, I’m just gonna walk down. There’s some kind of fear. There’s a kind of anxiety that we experience when we’re walking towards this dark place, which is normal to human life. That can help to protect and help us to avoid danger, that’s a normal situation, but there are some situations that is kind of excessive in nature. When the fear begins to rule one’s life and you cannot successfully go through your day to day activities without sense of fear, sense of panic and anxiety, then that’s when we start looking into the situation.

So, in a situation where the fear or the anxiety begins to rule one’s life, then it’s very necessary to seek treatment in any form that is available out there. A lot of people shy away from discussing mental health and mental health issues. It’s like a stigma, a negative stigma, when people say, Oh, mental health. And we’re really do need to start addressing issues like this and figuring out how to be able to manage and keep our health and wellbeing intact. So, it’s not ashamed of to say, Oh, I’m going through some form of mental health issue and untreated mental health can lead to debilitating conditions which can prevent people from living a fulfilled life.

According to The Oxford Handbook of Depression, comorbidity just mean diseases that are occurring together, hand in hand. According to this handbook of depression comorbidity, two to 7% of people suffering from major depression die of suicide. So, this is why it’s very important to not keep it to ourselves and to seek help in any form or shape that’s available out there.

The first disorder we’ll be looking at today is the anxiety. And I’m sure some people will be like, is that, can you call anxiety mental health? They are all part of the mental health condition that we’ll be looking at. So, anxiety comes in different forms. It can come in what we call panic disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder is commonly known as OCD. It can be post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and it can come in the form of phobia. It’s kind of like a fear.

So, when we talk about panic disorder, it’s a form of anxiety disorder that causes people to panic. They have a panic attack. It’s like an overwhelming attack comes over them when they’re going through this process. Panic attack is a sudden feeling of terror when no real danger is imminent. So, it’s like people feeling a kind of gripping fear, terror, when there’s nothing that is really supposed to be causing that kind of feeling.

The signs and symptoms that are often seen in this situation include increasing your heart rate, your heart start beating faster. Some people experience difficulty in breathing. Some people experience chest or stomach pain, weakness, dizziness, sweating and some people will go to the extent that vomit or throw up. Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere with no signs or warning at all.

So, I mean, the fear can just grip somebody like that without any warning. Some people can go through panic attacks in such a way that they are unable to even leave their home. It’s such a serious situation and it’s been said that the panic attack is mostly common women compared to men. A lot of the attacks are seen in women a lot of, a lot of the time compared to men.

Sometimes people experience a panic attacks when they are under intense stress or pressure, a very stressful situation or some people are able to manage and control it through a non-pharmacological means. While some, for some people they have to go through the pharmacological means which is using medication to manage the disorder. The next disorder we’ll be looking at is the obsessive-compulsive disorder. That’s what are called OCD. OCD is also a form of anxiety disorder that is a frequent annoying thought or obsession. This is the fear of, it can just be a fear of germs. It could be a fear of just being anything… Is kind of annoying thoughts, kind of obsessive annoying thoughts.

So, for an individual to control this obsessive thought, sometime they have a kind of a repetitive task, overwhelming urge to do the thing over and over again like maybe continuously cleaning, sweeping… that’s the compulsive parts of the disorder. For some of professionals is kind of common with or say like a pharmacist, like medical doctors, or nurses, they will tend to have this kind of tendency, which is understandable because you are dealing with people’s lives. The life of people is in your hand.

In the case of pharmacists, you are trying to fill medication that is going to make people feel better and sometimes if you have to check it 10 times to make sure you are putting in the correct medication in that bottle, that is exactly what we need to do. So, we normally kind of make a little joke in a pharmacy profession that we are all, we all have OCD. So, it’s a way of continuously doing something. But when it gets to a certain level, this can begin to affect people’s life in day to day activities.

I guess people will be like, so what is the cause of this? Why is it like this? So, our researchers, they believe that the brain circuitry, the electricity or wiring of the brain, may not be functioning effectively in people with this disorder. The symptoms are often seen in children and teenagers. Normally, it looks like it normally starts at an early age in children and teens.

The next condition we’ll look at is the PTSD. That is the post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a major illness that all occurs after people live through a very traumatic situation like say war or sexual assault. It could be somebody in an abusive relationship, it could be due to bad weather or it could be a very bad accident. People going through this disorder, they go through intense stress and fear even after the situation is over and everything is supposed to be normal. It is not normal for them; they go through this intense fear and terror.

PTSD affects not just the person that is going through this condition, but it also affects their families and friends and neighbors. It’s a major condition, especially considering how many people have gone through war and coming back from war. So, we are beginning to see a lot of this situation, especially in our military population and families. Some of these signs and symptoms of PTSD includes a flashback. They can experience night terror, trouble sleeping, loneliness. Some time it can be an uncommon form off intense anger or rage. Sometimes it’s like a guilty or sadness or depression, like in the case of a guilty feelings for somebody that has been saved, like a soldier coming back home from war and unfortunately maybe they lost some of their friends or loved ones out there. It can be very, very saddening.

Then you get to the state as a human being sometimes they might start feeling like, Oh, why? Why did I… Why am I the one that survived? Why? Why? The why is what is the problem sometimes because they feel like, I don’t deserve to survive when this or that person is way better than me and they are gone. So, those are some of the symptoms that can be seen.

The next condition I will look at is what I call phobia. Phobia is a type of anxiety disorder with strong irrational fear of things that possess little or no real danger. Most of these mental health conditions, they kind of interwoven together but in phobia there is no rational reason why somebody should be afraid, but this person is really, really fearful. That is what we call phobia.

Phobia comes in different forms. One is agoraphobia. This is the fear of public places. People can just be afraid to be in a public place. We also have acrophobia. This is the fear of heights. People cannot go on top of like a roller coaster; it is an intense fear. Then the most common one that everybody talks about a lot of the time is claustrophobia. That is the feel of being closed up, you know, in a small space. That is, in an average person, we say, Oh, I’m claustrophobic. It’s just a fear of being in a closed-up environment.

And there’s also sociophobe. This is the anxiety over being in a public space with people. Most people suffering from this phobia, any form of phobia, and what they do is they try to avoid the situation or the environments that bring in the fear. So, that is what, a way they try to avoid being in that situation.

But sometimes you can’t avoid being, avoid the situation. Like you can’t say, Oh, I have sociophobe so I’m going to stay in my house and not go anywhere. Oh, I’m have, I’m claustrophobia, so I’m not gonna go to work because I don’t want to stay in my little cubicle. So that’s why it’s really, really necessary to manage this disorder.

Usually it started in children and teenager and the cause is really not known. They haven’t been able to pinpoint what the cause of this disorder is but some scientists felt like it might be genetically, due to genetic predisposition to this disorder. Our next one is a very chronic situation and often times pharmacological, like medication, might be necessary to manage this other, schizoaffective disorder. Schizoaffective disorder, the symptoms includes schizophrenic episodes such as a hallucination, delusion, and there’s the mood disorder part of fear that is in form of a depression or manic episode.

So, what is hallucination? Hallucination is like hearing or seeing things that are not visible to the average individual. Like this person, you can say, Oh, I’m seeing stuff or hearing stuff… but every other person around aren’t able to see the same thing. When we talk about delusion, these individuals are holding onto beliefs that are not true. That’s delusion. They are holding onto what are called delusions like conspiracy theory. They are holding onto beliefs that are not really true.

Schizoaffective disorder can also manifest in forms or disorganized thoughts. It can manifest in form of depression. It can manifest itself in what we call manic behavior, such as super hyperactive feeling, dangerous or risky behavior. All these are some of the… all these are some of the signs that are manifested in the schizoaffective disorder.

So, what is the cause of this? Cause can be due to a defective brain structure or chemistry. It could be due to stress. It could be due to genetics; it could be drug induced like in some psychedelic or psychoactive drug like LSD… This can be drug induced too.

The next disorder we’ll look at is depression. Depression is not just a feeling of being down or blue; this is a major medical illness. I know sometimes I’ll always say, Oh, I’m depressed, I’m depressed, but real depression is a major illness that needs medical attention. Depressive episodes can happen in any form or shape. It affects women, it affects man it affects any race, it affects any ethnicity. You can see it in any socioeconomic status. It doesn’t mean that, Oh, I’m rich so I’m immune to depression.

Sometimes you wonder people like, why will you be depressed? Oh, these people, they are rich. Why would they be depressed? It’s not biased or anything like that. It can be seen in anybody. Clinical studies show that up to 70% of women are more likely to suffer from depression compared to men and also 60% of younger are said to be more likely to suffer from depression compared to people over 50 years. So, most times it’s seen, it’s most common in women and also in younger adults compared to the elderly population.

So, what are the signs and symptoms of depression? The signs can come in form of sadness, lack of energy, feeling of worthlessness, distraction. It could be changing weight, it could be changing sleep, like sleep disorder and anxiety. Some of the physical symptoms can be in the form of a headache, pain… could be literal degenerative disorder and thoughts of death or people can even go up to the level of having a suicide ideation.

Those are some of the signs that we need to watch out for when we are looking at what’s going on with depression. Depression can also be due to genetic predisposition. It could be due to environmental or physiological factor and it could be deal to chemical imbalance in our body. So, what are the types of depression that we see around? We can… It comes in form of postpartum depression.

In postpartum depression, this type is seen in women that maybe recently just gave birth to a baby and that would make sense because when a woman is pregnant there is so much hormonal changes going on in our body. So, this part of the cause of depression is hormonal imbalance and where else can we see hormonal imbalance more than in pregnant women. So, postpartum depression is one type.

There is a seasonal affective disorder. This one is common around or when a time when it gets dark early, people start feeling blue or really, really depressed because of the weather. So, that one is common whenever the weather is changing, especially in the winter and it gets dark. We also have the one we call a bipolar depression. Bipolar depression is seen in a, people that suffer from bipolar disorder.

So, how do we manage these conditions? Like I said earlier, most of these mental health disorders they have in the beginning, they have similar pharmacological ways of managing them. Most of the drugs that I use, especially in cases like OCD, panic disorder, the entry level medication that I use can be in the same class of medication, but as the degree of this condition increases then health care professionals will start adding more agents to manage whatever symptom is being expressed.

But it’s always a rule of thumb to start slow, go slow. So, what I mean by that is that the non-pharmacological therapy is always advised when we are looking at medication and treatment. So, the same also goes for mental health. So, people use what they call talk therapy like you talk to yourself like in the case of OCD one can kind of talk to oneself and try to take control of the situation. So, some people find a relief from talk therapy.

Also, people look into diet and nutrition; what we eat can affect our mood. We can regulate our mood by keeping blood sugar stable. That is, you eat carbohydrate food moderately in a balanced way. Other thing we can do is take out any food that might be causing problem for us. For example, some people they are gluten free, they don’t eat any food that contains gluten and some people don’t eat dairy food. I know it’s tough, like some people, it’s not everybody that can afford the gluten free food but we can try to say, if you look at the situation and say this is causing problem, maybe find a way to eliminate that product from the diet.

But the most important thing when it comes to diet is to consult with a nutritionist or dietician so they can professionally look at what is going on and give their professional recommendation on the best way to go about it. Another way that we can manage mental health condition is look at the vitamins and minerals in our diets. Signs and symptoms of mental health might be deal to deficiency of nutrients such as vitamin D in the diet. Vitamin D level needs to be checked regularly because a lot of people, we go from our house to the car and to the office.

Sometimes we then go from the office to the car to the house. We are not exposed to the sun as we really need to be. And even of those living in Florida, we still see here from time to time they say, Oh, this person is deficient in vitamin D. My husband was at the doctor’s office the other day and they did his vitamin D level and they say, Oh, you are low in vitamin D and I’m thinking with him, I say, are you kidding me now? Vitamin D deficiency in Florida? Because vitamin D is, one of the sources of vitamin D is the sun and because we don’t get that much exposure to the sun anymore, the lifestyle is from the house to the car to the office… We will be surprised for those of us living in Florida, we can get deficiency in vitamin D. So, this needs to be checked on, looked into.

Apart from checking vitamin D to make sure it’s not low, it’s also very, very important for us women to make sure we check our vitamin D level because of the potential for osteoporosis, our bone health. Vitamin D is very essential for the bone health and for women, especially women of childbearing age. We lose a lot during pregnancy and all that. So, all this needs to be taken into consideration. So, sometimes it begins to make sense when they say, oh more women suffer from depression or this disorder. Then you can see there’s potential. We lose a lot of minerals, vitamins, in our day to day. During our menstrual period or pregnancy all kinds of things are going on with us women. Women, we are flexible and we take things in stride and keep moving. So, we need to make sure the vitamin D level is in good form.

Apart from vitamin D level the other nutrients that need to be watched on a regular basis is the vitamin B complex. Vitamin B complex should be checked on a regular basis. So, another way that we look at mental health and find out what we can do to improve things is hormonal imbalance or hormonal changes. Hormonal imbalance can lead to depressive episode and other mental health related issues such as anxiety and mood swings, at sudden times in our lives.

For example, in the case of women during pregnancy, for young adults during the puberty stage, and for our elderly population during the menopause, all these are times in our lives that the hormonal balance can fluctuate here and there. So, we need to look at this as a holistic total approach when we are talking about mental health.

The other part of hormonal imbalance that we could look at is the thyroid related disorder. Thyroid related disorder has been implicated in depressive episodes in many individuals that have maybe low thyroid level or high thyroid level. When low thyroid level will be the hypothyroidism, high thyroid level would be hyperthyroidism. So, this level, really our thyroid helps us with our metabolic syndrome. It helps to balance our activities on a day to day level. So, when we have deficiency in thyroid hormones or elements like iodine, either high or low, then we can become lethargic and that can start having effects on our mentor situation. So, lab works needs to be done and identify whatever is going on with our thyroid or with our hormone level in our body and correction needs to be made.

When it comes to a hormone imbalance, the good news is that, unlike before, when you talk about hormone imbalance, the main ways that people control this is through hormone replacement therapy and somebody might say, I really don’t want to go through the hormone replacement route. Now many natural therapies are now being employed to help, help manage hormonal imbalance. Like vitamins are being used now. Minerals are being brought on board and some people are even using herbal supplements. All these are ways that people are now managing hormone levels if they do not want to go through the homeowner replacement route.

So, finally we’ll look at a deficiency in neurotransmitters. I know somebody will be like, what the heck is a neurotransmitter? Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that produce in the brain. They come in the form of serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine. These are the major chemicals that our brain produces to help maintain, not just our mental health, but they also do other functions in our body.

For example, serotonin has been implicated in many depressive conditions. Other ways we can maintain this chemical is to do, go through the lifestyle modification and diet, just like the previous hormonal imbalance. What we eat is very, very important and we need to start focusing and paying attention to what goes on in our body. Finally, when people are going through any of these conditions or disorders, we need to go to our physician and let them take assessment, do the regular tests that are necessary to be able to determine what’s really going on and how to be able to fix it.

Mental health as a whole is a broad subject. So, today we’ll end today’s part here. But on our next episode, we’re going to be looking at the pharmacological ways of managing mental health; meaning, we’re going to look at the traditional pharmaceutics, the drugs that are being used in the management of mental health. Then, we are also going to look at the cannabis and cannabinoids and their role in what it can, how it can help in management of mental health.

So, you absolutely do not want to miss the next episode because that’s really where you’re gonna be able to get the therapy advice necessary for the management of this disorder. I would like to say thank you so much once again for joining me today and if you are yet to subscribe to the show, please do so. Subscribe to the show so we can keep it moving. For those that already subscribed to the show, thank you so much for your support. It means a lot to us.

Also, for those of you that are part of our patron group that’s supporting us financially, we are very appreciative of your support and if you will like to support the show financially, nothing is too small. You can check out our patron link on our website at Until next time, remember health equals wealth. Thank you so much.

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