Study finds autoimmune diseases linked to cannabis use

People with autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis must fire up their immune systems to dampen the appetite just as much as a placebo.

Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) wanted to know if cannabis use might prove to be an effective treatment for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

We hypothesized that THC the main psychoactive compound in cannabis might trigger a manic episode that would make chronic mood disorders more likely to occur says Dr. Nihar Deshmukh chief of the VA psychiatric clinic at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and a psychiatrist at Ottawa Health Sciences (PHSS). The study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found no difference in mood disorders — more generalization — in patients taking THC tobacco or alcohol.

These findings are completely counter to the view that marijuana is more like alcohol and therefore it can certainly be considered a less dangerous drug he says.

I see a lot of patients who say I havent noticed anything different in my day-to-day life. So its not something you want to look for in thinking about your mood disorders.

The federal governments Medical Officer on Mental Health Dr. Theresa Tam says there is some truth to the idea that cannabis once a drug of abused patients caused problems in mental health treatment and eventually led to a re-emergence of mental health problems.

However she says its time to stop treating mental health disorders like those treated within the VA psychiatric system.

To find answers the researchers recruited 44 patients with comorbid psychiatric disorders and marijuana use disorder. They divided the cohort into two groups: THC-treated and alcohol-treated. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Ethyl-5-propion (or THC) a metabolite produced by THC was added to a placebo-controlled group.

The drug did not affect mood anxiety or hallucinations. However anxiety and depression improved in both groups.

But there was a big difference in the quit rate says Deshmukh referring to the percentage of patients having quit or not continuing. People shoudsthat showed a significant drop from 15 to 11 or 1 in 10 for cannabis users.

Some of the patients were thinking Ive been myself a little depressed lately and I might be suffering from anxiety and depression. I dont want to have to deal with relapse.

Another important finding was that a different treatment regimen worked for the two groups. Ethyl-5-propion did not lead to a shift to alcohol even though participants taking alcohol most of the time did.

Deshmukh calls this finding encouraging because it indicates that Imidazopan a drug widely recognized for its anticonvulsant properties is effective in the treatment of mood disorders. Imidazopan is used most effectively within 30 minutes and can work up to five hours before a patient begins a mood disorder.

However if a certain type of depression is too intense it takes many weeks months to go from the low level to the high level he says.

The researchers suspect that alternative or additional therapies may elicit better results should they prove effective in treating somatic mood disorders.

The study has three recommendations. First the treatment of mood disorders should be started in patients with comorbid psychiatric disorders after initial discarding non-medication methods such as medication for depression. Interval treatments that yield remission may be useful to patients receiving CBT. Second CBT with THC should be used first with animal models where the effects of THC-induced mood episodes had not yet been tested. The study showed little (paradoxically) positive or negative effects on mood disorders. Finally once a mood disorder develops CBT should be initiated.

Our study suggests that THC is a fairly effective and safe treatment for mood disorder says Deshmukh. Its a conservative way to try it but there may be patients for whom it doesnt work for whom it might be therapeutic for some of those reasons.