Why Survivors of Sexual Violence Choose Cannabis to Heal

Sexual violence—which includes rape and any other unwanted sexual experience—is a significant problem in the United States. About one in three American women, and one in six American men, have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Intimate partner violence is a scourge in the US as well. In 2015, the Center for Disease Control reported that one in four women, and one in ten men, experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. (It should be noted that the term “intimate partner violence” includes psychological aggression as well, such as name calling, insulting, or humiliating.)

I’m a survivor of intimate partner violence and sexual violence, and I’ve been consuming cannabis for almost eight years. Ironically, my physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend was the first person I ever consumed cannabis with. Now, the plant helps me manage the PTSD symptoms his violence created.

For most of my twenties I lived in prohibition states, where trustworthy budtenders and access to legal, budget-friendly, and high-quality cannabis simply wasn’t a reality. But now that I live in California—where buying cannabis is a legal, safe, and socially acceptable errand—I’m doing everything in my power to shine a light on all the ways cannabis can help trauma survivors live their best lives

And I’m not alone.

I recently spoke with the following people on the topic:

    • Ashley Manta, creator of CannaSexual, sex and cannabis coach, and a multiple sexual assault survivor
    • Caitlin Flynn, a Seattle-based writer and rape survivor
    • Dr. Carrie Cuttler, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Washington State University
    • Dr. Dustin Sulak, the founder of Integr8 Health, a medical practice in Maine that follows over 8,000 patients using medical cannabis; Healer.com, a medical cannabis patient education resource; and Cannabis Expertise, a continuing medical education curriculum

How Trauma Changes the Brain

“Sexual abuse and other types of intense trauma can change the body’s communication pathway between the brain and the adrenal glands,” Dr. Sulak says. “This usually results in overactive adrenal function, producing excessive levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can result in increased blood pressure and blood sugar and increased adrenaline,” Dr. Sulak says these changes can also impair the immune system’s ability to respond to acute and chronic infections, and have a negative impact on digestion, sleep, focus, learning, and more.

“After long periods of overactive adrenal function, the glands can also start to malfunction, resulting in adrenal fatigue—a primary component of chronic fatigue syndrome and sexual dysfunction,” Dr. Sulak says. He adds that trauma survivors have been found to have problems with neurotransmitter signaling as well, especially when it comes to the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate, both of which correlate with hyperarousal (excessive fight-or-flight response) and re-experiencing traumatic memories (two of the three domains of PTSD symptoms—the third is avoidance).

Dr. Sulak says excessive glutamate signaling can also reinforce the neural pathways that are most problematic for survivors. “When we practice a new skill, like knitting for example, and get so good at it that we can do it with little thought, that type of learning is accompanied by structural connections in the brain’s neurons that create something like a knitting superhighway,” Dr. Sulak says.

In trauma survivors, this can happen with the pathways that cause feelings and behaviors related to anxiety and panic. “We don’t want those pathways to be superhighways that are used every day,we want them to be there only for emergency use.”

How Cannabis Can Help

Dr. Sulak relayed that cannabis often works by suppressing excessive activity in the body. “If the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system is too activated, cannabis can help bring this back to normal. If the neural pathways related to trauma are being overused, cannabis can turn them down or turn them off. And it does this best in areas of the brain related to memories and emotional responses, because those areas have very high levels of cannabinoid receptors.”

Cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body. They’re part of the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Even without using cannabis, our bodies are already using cannabinoids to help manage some of the health problems that plague survivors the most.

“Our brains produce endocannabinoids, which function like THC to correct many of the alterations in brain and body function associated with trauma,” Dr. Sulak says. He adds that a recent study discovered that people who have mutations in the genes that code for components of the endocannabinoid system have a higher likelihood of developing anxiety disorders, of which PTSD is one.

“Conventional pharmacologic treatments for PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms leave a lot to be desired. Cannabis, on the other hand, is one medicine that, when used correctly, can achieve all these goals: improve mood, reduce anxiety, promote restorative sleep, and suppress nightmares,” Dr. Sulak says. “It’s truly a holistic treatment … In my nine years of treating thousands of patients with cannabis, I’ve seen the most consistent, satisfactory response for reducing or eliminating trauma-related nightmares, and restorative sleep is essential for healing.”

Beyond symptom relief, Dr. Sulak says cannabis can actually promote the long-term healing process after trauma. Studies on human subjects have shown that the compounds in cannabis, both THC and CBD, can enhance our capacity for “fear extinction,” a scientific term for what happens in the brain when therapy (or just everyday life in a safe and loving environment) helps a trauma survivor change their response to stimuli that would have previously triggered symptoms like anxiety, panic, and flashbacks. “The cannabinoids literally promote the kind of brain changes needed to release limiting patterns of thought and behavior,” he explains.

The Research on Cannabis and PTSD

“I’m not a trauma expert by any stretch of the imagination,” Dr. Cuttler tells me. “What I can say is that cannabis has demonstrated some beneficial effects in the treatment of PTSD. Cannabis helps to improve sleep and reduce nightmares in people with PTSD, and it also seems to facilitate memory extinction—so helping survivors extinguish those traumatic memories,” she says.

Research in Dr. Cuttler’s Health and Cognition Lab focuses on illuminating the potentially beneficial and detrimental effects of chronic cannabis use and acute cannabis intoxication. Her current and recent work focuses on examining links between cannabis use and mental health, physical health, stress, and cognition.

In 2018, Dr. Cuttler and her team conducted one of the first official studies to track the self-reported effects of different cannabis strains and doses on cannabis consumers. The study found that consuming cannabis made people less anxious, stressed, and depressed.

But there’s still much to learn. Statistics show that women actually have double the rate of PTSD than men, yet the bulk of existing trauma research focuses on male combat veterans. Moreover, a study on Gulf War veterans found that sexual assault is more likely to lead to PTSD than combat.

“Clinical trials give us our best evidence and there really haven’t been very many, or very good, clinical trials looking at the use of cannabis for mental health purposes, and we just need far more of those,” Dr. Cuttler says. “The scheduling of cannabis as a Schedule I drug in the US makes it very difficult to research legally, which has really stalled the progress of our research.”

Best Practices for Daily Cannabis Consumption

Dr. Sulak recommends consuming a combination of CBD and THC each morning and afternoon as a baseline treatment. He adds that survivors should be mindful of how their doses make them feel—the goal is to reduce symptoms without causing impairment, decreased motivation, or increased avoidance behaviors. “The CBD:THC ratio of this baseline treatment can vary, but 1:1 is a fine place to start.” Dr. Sulak says if that ratio is too impairing, consumers should try switching to a higher CBD ratio. “Inhaled cannabis can then be used during the day, at the lowest effective dose, to control breakthrough symptoms.”

Regarding inhalation, Dr. Sulak says the best method is using an herbal vaporizer that heats up your cannabis flower without burning it. “This allows users to try several varieties of cannabis and find what works best for them.”

Dr. Sulak recommends not using inhalation as the only delivery method though, due to its rapid onset and short duration of action. “Patients who do this often end up chasing their symptoms around (waiting until the anxiety recurs before a subsequent dose) instead of preventing the symptoms. Remember, it’s important to avoid using those trauma pathways so that they stop acting like a superhighway and become more of an old country road with grass growing through the blacktop.”

Survivors on Their Relationship With Cannabis

Ashley Manta is a multiple sexual assault survivor whose first assailant was a cannabis consumer. “I was 13 and the person who assaulted me was using cannabis at the time,” Manta shares. She was strictly anti-cannabis for nearly a decade afterward. “I associated cannabis with getting assaulted. Even smelling it would set me off.” Manta says she didn’t want to be around weed—and had a lot of bias and judgement toward people who used it—until she had her first consensual cannabis experience at age 23.

“All of my cohorts in my philosophy program were stoners, because of course. I picked a group of them and I was like, okay, these are people that I respect and they’re amazing and my professors even smoke weed. What am I missing?”

That experience changed Manta’s mind about cannabis, but it wasn’t until she moved from Pennsylvania to California in 2014 that she was able to experiment with all the healing properties the plant has to offer. “When I found Foria, the THC-infused oil, that was the first time I was ever able to have penetrative sex without pain since my assault. So that was a big game-changer for me.”

When Manta named her rapist on the internet in 2015, she says cannabis was one of the few things that helped her keep it together. “My PTSD was so horrifically triggered by that experience that I was having panic attacks. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even think about sex. Cannabis was actually the thing that allowed me to get through the panic attacks, that let me sleep at night and helped me start to feel comfortable in my body again.”

These days, she incorporates cannabis flower into her sex life as well. “My boyfriend and I just had marathon sex all day yesterday and we stopped at various points to smoke a little bit of Galactic Jack. He really likes that,” she says.

Manta used to take antidepressants and Xanax, but she says safe and legal access to cannabis has enabled her to take care of herself without having to rely on pharmaceuticals. “If I get panicky, I have things that I reach for that are cannabis derived. I have tinctures, I have pens, and as my tolerance has grown, I dab more. But even just a couple of puffs of something that’s really heavy and grounding can be enough to take the edge off of my pretty constant anxiety.”

Manta consumes cannabis daily, and she believes anyone who might be suffering from PTSD, regardless of the cause, should have safe and legal access to the plant. “Whatever it is that has caused you trauma, I think cannabis is beneficial and I think people should have access to it as easily as they have access to any other kind of medication that helps you function.”

Flynn, who first began experiencing symptoms of PTSD and an eating disorder when she was in middle school, couldn’t agree more. “I think it should absolutely be made accessible to survivors and anyone who would benefit from it, whether it’s physically, mentally, or both,” she says.

The Soothing Effects of Cannabis on Multiple Symptoms

Flynn was hospitalized for an eating disorder seven times between the ages of 13 and 24, then experienced early-age corporate burnout in 2015. “I moved from NYC to Seattle for a fresh start, but I was raped the next summer, so that triggered a lot of really severe anxiety and some of my eating disorder symptoms started to come back,” Flynn shares.

“I was only sleeping two or three hours per night and I was really struggling to just keep my head above water.” Flynn’s psychiatrist kept increasing her dose of Valium just so Flynn could function, but she was really worried about its long-term effects on Flynn’s brain. “She made it clear that it was a temporary solution until we could find a long-term treatment plan to address the underlying issues. I have an addictive personality, and addiction runs in my family, so that was also a concern.”

Although she’d tried cannabis in high school and college, Flynn says she wasn’t a fan of the plant before moving to Seattle. “I have asthma and I’m a now-retired dancer, so I don’t like to smoke—and it just never really did much for me or my mood when my friends were passing around a joint.” Even after moving to Seattle, she never went looking for weed until she was asked to cover the opening of a high-end cannabis dispensary. “While I was speaking with their budtenders my interest was piqued,” she told me.

“They gave me some samples to try based on what I told them, and I couldn’t believe how much it helped with my anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia. I talked to my psychiatrist about it and she said that it would be a better long-term solution than Valium.”

Flynn says moderation is key for her, so she consumes cannabis infused edibles only on an as needed basis. “When I’m going through a rough patch, I definitely rely on it more, but I’ll also sometimes go a week or two without feeling like I need to use cannabis,” Flynn says.

A Note on Cannabis and Consent

As a survivor and someone who studied sexual violence prevention for a long time, Manta said she had a lot of concerns when she first started consuming cannabis on a regular basis. “Because the hard line among sexual violence educators is that you don’t mix substances and sex regardless, ever, ever, ever—no alcohol, no weed, no pills, nothing. With cannabis, there’s room for nuance. So what I’ve come up with is to negotiate before you medicate.”

Manta said it’s important to have a conversation with your partner about why you want to get elevated before getting intimate, and what kinds of products you’re using if it’s a product that’s going to get you high. “If you’re using CBD only or topicals or things like that, then it doesn’t impact consent. But if you’re going to be doing something that has a high feeling associated with it, it’s something that you want to have a conversation with your partner about in advance,” Manta advised. “Don’t get stoned at a party and hookup with somebody you just met. Get their phone number and text them the next day and then make plans.”

This article written by Elizabeth Enochs was originally posted on Leafly.com.

Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1

Cuttler, C., Spradlin, Spradlin, A., and McLaughlin, R.J. A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect. Journal of Affective Disorders, 235, 198-205, 2018. Smith, D. R., Stanley, C. M., Foss, T., Boles, R. G., & McKernan, K. (2017). Rare genetic variants in the endocannabinoid system genes CNR1 and DAGLA are associated with neurological phenotypes in humans. PloS one, 12(11), e0187926. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187926

HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!

KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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2-Arachidonoylglycerol - The Endocannabinoid You Probably Did Not Know You Know All Too Well

2-Arachidonoylglycerol – The Endocannabinoid You Probably Did Not Know You Know All Too Well

LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock, LMFT

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, LMFT

written by

Namen Namestein

reviewed by

Namen Namestein

2-Arachidonoylglycerol, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, 2-arachidonoylglycerol – say it three times fast and you might just produce some. Yes, activating your brain to say this very long and complicated word could very possibly produce this especially abundant cannabinoid. If I am speaking a whole other language to you, just keep reading because 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is well worth knowing about…

 

What are Cannabinoids?

Aside from cannabinoids being the most mispronounced word in cannabis science- kuh–nab–uh-noid- they actually comprise approximately 100 chemical compounds out of 500, responsible for psychological and physiological effects. Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds made up of 21 carbon atoms in a 3-ring structure. They bind to receptors throughout the brain and body. 

Cannabinoids are neurotransmitters that exert their effects by interacting with specific cannabinoid receptors present on the surface of cells. The effects of cannabinoids depend on the part of the body or brain they are targeting. They mediate communication between cells, allowing for immediate response to deficiencies or problems in our endocannabinoid system and  halt unpleasant symptoms and physical complications. Simply put, cannabinoids activate receptors to maintain internal stability and health. 

While most cannabinoids are not intoxicating themselves, combinations of their presence can influence how each affects you. Different cannabinoids connect with or influence different receptors to produce different effects to achieve homeostasis or balance. 

There are three different kinds of cannabinoids:

🌿 phytocannabinoids or exogenous cannabinoids

👤 endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids 

🧪 synthetic cannabinoids

Now, let us focus on endocannabinoids as it applies most to the anandamide…

 

What are Endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids are produced inside the body as the Latin prefix “endo” – meaning internal or within- specifies cannabinoids produced from our body. Yes, the magic of the body as it makes similar chemical compounds to those of cannabis plants. Endocannabinoids are on-demand neurotransmitters. We make them when we need them. They go to work in seconds and can disappear again.

Endocannabinoids lend themselves to rebalancing the most essential systems in the body, and function as activators of the immune system.They are synthesized from fatty acids and act locally where they are produced. Just like phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids interact with receptors to initiate a physical response. The two most commonly occurring endocannabinoids are:

👤 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

👤 N-arachidonoylethanolamine – “anandamide” (AEA)

 

What is 2-Arachidonoyl Glycerol?

Considered one of the most important and common endocannabinoids, 2-AG is a major endocannabinoid produced by the body which helps maintain homeostasis. 2-AG is present in high levels in the central nervous system and works to bring the body into balance. To be very clear about this- it is not found in cannabis flower.

2-AG performs many crucial functions as it is a key regulator of neurotransmitter release in the central nervous system. It is thought to play an important role in:

🧬 regulation of appetite

🧬 immune system functions

🧬 pain management

🧬 regulation of the circulatory system 

 

In Conclusion

As endocannabinoids research continues, it is clear that 2-AG contributes a crucial function  in human physiology and our overall well being. 2-AG, along with the rest of the endocannabinoid system, is quickly becoming a target for the treatment of various conditions. Its role in the circulatory system has made for the potential target for cardiac related illnesses and neurodegenerative conditions.

Hillard, C. Circulating Endocannabinoids: From Whence Do They Come and Where are They Going?. Neuropsychopharmacol. 43, 155–172 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2017.130

 

https://www.jyi.org/2018-june/2018/6/1/the-endocannabinoid-system-our-universal-regulator

 

https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/cannabinoid-science-101-what-is-2-arachidonoylglycerol-2-ag/

 

Karabowicz P, Grzęda E, Baranowska-Kuczko M, Malinowska B. Znaczenie endokannabinoidu 2-arachidonyloglicerolu w fizjologii i patofizjologii układu krążenia [Role of endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the physiology and pathophysiology of the cardiovascular system]. Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2014 Jun 12;68:814-27. Polish. doi: 10.5604/17322693.1108875. PMID: 24934539.

 

Marc P. Baggelaar, Mauro Maccarrone, Mario van der Stelt, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol: A signaling lipid with manifold actions in the brain, Progress in Lipid Research, Volume 71, 2018, Pages 1-17, ISSN 0163-7827, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plipres.2018.05.002.

Zuzana Justinová, Sevil Yasar, Godfrey H. Redhi and Steven R. Goldberg, The Endogenous Cannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol Is Intravenously Self-Administered by Squirrel Monkeys, Journal of Neuroscience 11 May 2011,  31 (19) 7043-7048; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6058-10.2011

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HEY NEWBIES- START HERE!


KEEP IN MIND

Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.


NAVIAGTE

EXPLORE

Everything You Thought You Knew About Marijuana and Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis

Everything You Thought You Knew About Marijuana and Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis

LJG 2021

written by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

Hannah Sadock, LMFT

reviewed by

Hannah Sadock, LMFT

written by

Namen Namestein

reviewed by

Namen Namestein

It may seem kind of silly to address what cannabis or marijuana is as most of us may have met the substance at a high school or college party. Truth is- while cannabis is believed to be one of the oldest cultivated crops in history, recent, impactful discoveries about the plant have been made within the past few years that may be worth knowing. Specifically linked to our unawareness of all the varietals of the plant that appear to yield medicinal benefits. 

So let’s start with this- marijuana is not the actual scientific name of the plant. It is slang devised from dated racist legal terms meant to criminalize its use, possession, and distribution. “Cannabis,” is the largely preferred actual scientific name and term of choice of the plant known to produce industrial, medicinal, therapeutic, and recreational benefits.

What is Cannabis?

Many plants have been discovered and used for their medicinal effects over the course of human evolution. The Cannabis Sativa L plant was thought to have originated over 10,000 years ago in the Himalayas with a use for its fiber and oil-bearing seeds. The plant was made into fiber for rope and cloth, and its seed’s oil was used for household needs.

Its first recorded medical use was noted in Indochinese texts over 3,000 years ago. A Chinese pharmacopeia recorded its effectiveness in treating tapeworm, constipation, and hair loss. Cannabis use for recreational and medicinal effects spread throughout various empires. By the Middle Ages, it was regularly used as a topical to relieve muscle and joint pain.

In 1545, the Spaniards introduced the Americans to cannabis for its use as fiber. Hemp quickly became a major crop throughout the Americas in the 18th century.

In 1839, Dr. William B. O’Shaughnessy returned to the United State from his time in India having learned of the medicinal use of cannabis. He recommended its use for insomnia, pain, muscle spasms, and other conditions. He encouraged other physicians to recommend the use of cannabis and soon it became an acceptable treatment included in the US pharmacopeia. Cannabis tinctures were sold as patented medicines.

In the late 19th century, over 280 manufacturers of cannabis were established as laws started to be enacted to address issues of adulteration, mislabeling, etc. Since then various laws and policies have been established to control the plant, its use, and those profiting from it.

All of this is worth noting; the legal limits placed on this plant contributes to how it is defined within our society.. As we know it today, the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants yields 170 species including cannabis, hemp, hops, hackberries, and more. Members of the family are erect or climbing plants with leaves born oppositely or in spirals. The plants are dioecious, meaning that individuals are either male or female and the flowers are petal-less.

The cannabis plant has a wide variety of colors and crystals located on its buds. It emits a distinct aroma that can seem pungent. It does not all smell the same- sometimes it is fruity and other times it is skunky. Each plant offers various patterns of growth, chemical compound profiles, levels of resiliency, recreational effects, and medical applications. There are some differences based on its three diverse set of species including:

🌿 Cannabis Sativa can grow fifteen-feet high making it more suited for outdoor growth to reach its maximum potential. It also grows best in higher temperatures and humidity levels. These conditions may be a concern for mold and other environmental effects on the offspring, though tend not to decrease its popularity due to its higher yield of psychoactive components.

🌱 Keep in mind, Hemp (aka that CBD stuff you see everywhere) is a type of Cannabis Sativa. In accordance with the UN Narcotics Convention, the US federal government classified “industrial hemp” in the 2018 Farm Bill as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC- the principal psychoactive constituent) by dry weight. As defined by this law, hemp is being bred to produce minimal levels of THC. 

🌿 Cannabis Indica is a stocky plant, typically growing no higher than 3 to 6 feet tall. This makes it more conducive to growing indoors. Cannabis Indica plants flower fast and present thicker foliage and broader leaves. Cannabis Indica plants tend to have an earthy smell and taste and are often more pungent. This type of plant tends to be tolerant of colder temperatures and relative humidity.

🌿 Cannabis Ruderalis aka “ditch weed” lacks psychotropic effects and is mostly used for breeding hybrids as a source of producing auto-flowering traits. It grows relatively short, reaching a maximum height of approximately two feet. Originating in Siberia, Cannabis Ruderalis is accustomed to colder climates. It has a short life cycle and blooms quickly. 

It is, however, worth noting that due to genetic engineering, some of the typical characteristics cannot be assumed about modern day cannabis plants.  The shapes and sizes of these plants do not adhere to this paradigm as there are now innumerable hybrid plants bred for different effects.

What is Cannabis Used For?

Cannabis consumption is generally described as either medical or adult-use (previously recreational). Adults using it for anything other than treating a medical condition tend to find cannabis aids in enjoyment, stress relief, and creative stimulation. Whereas medical users are hoping to alleviate symptoms such as pain, anxiety, insomnia, appetite loss, and more.

The hemp plant is also an important agricultural resource. Its strong fibers have been used to make ropes, clothing, textiles, building materials, and more. Hemp seeds can also be consumed as they are packed full of essential amino acids, protein, and other valuable minerals. Other cannabis byproducts can be manufactured into cooking oils, and can even function as a sustainable biofuel.

What are the Components of Cannabis?

Just when you thought you were understanding cannabis, we are going to break it down even deeper. Cannabis is actually made up of many different chemical components which determine everything from the way it looks, tastes, and smells to the way it affects you if you use it. There are over 500 chemical compounds in cannabis that work together to provide a wide range of psychological and physiological effects. The following is a breakdown of the most commonly occurring constitutes:

🔬 Phytocannabinoids (“phyto” meaning of a plant or referring to a plant- also called cannabinoids) are a group of chemical compounds made up of 21 carbon atoms in a 3-ring structure. Scientists have identified over 120 cannabinoids specific to the cannabis plant. The most commonly occurring cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

🔬 Terpenoids (aka terpenes or terps) combined together with cannabinoids can also influence the effect of cannabis on the body to regulate brain function and mood. If you are familiar with “essential oils” you already have some experience with terpenes. High quantities of terpenes are found in various essential oils. The terpenes in these essential oils contribute to the uplifting effects you experience if you smell the rind of a lemon or walk through a pine forest.

🍋 limonene is in the essential oil of lemons and limes

🌲 pinene is found in the essential oil of pine needles

High concentrations of terpenes are found in the bud of the cannabis plant. The combination of terpenes with the other cannabis chemical compounds can enhance your experience, affect its taste, and smell. There are over 100 different terpenes in the cannabis plant.

🔬 Flavonoids are chemical compounds responsible for color pigmentation, odor, and flavor of plants. They are not unique to cannabis as they are found in thousands of plants including fruits and vegetables. In cannabis, flavonoids have synergistic qualities with terpenes, but whether they enhance the properties of cannabinoids or modulate their efficacy is not yet fully known and needs more research. Flavonoids are also partly responsible in the protection of plants from harmful UV rays, pests, and diseases.

Keep in mind- this is what we know so far. Scientists are still hard at work discovering more about cannabis and hemp plants everyday. So stay tuned!

What is a Cannabis Strain?

Reviewing the different chemical compounds in the cannabis plant will help you understand the multiple cannabis strains. Strains are essentially different breeds of cannabis. Each strain contains a different combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids profiles. Different strains of cannabis produce different effects, and thus can be used for different reasons. 

When you go to a cannabis dispensary, you will find the products are categorized by Sativa, Indica, and/or Hybrid. These names look familiar, right? Yup, they are the same as the plant species. That is not the only confusing thing about them. Here is what these categories are suppose to mean:

🍃 Sativa is believed to produce an uplifting head high.

🍃 Indica is believed to have a whole body effect that is relaxing or sedative.

🍃 Hybrid is thought to offer a combination of both.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. More recently, the cannabis industry has moved away from categorizing strain in this paradigm. For an effective result, individuals should determine what works best for them with a combination of strain identity, cultivator source, cannabinoid, and terpene contents specific to that product batch rather than classifying cannabis products based on subjective effects. 

Some websites like Leafly have started to categorize cannabis strains by their terpene profiles. However, it looks as though chemotype classification may be the future distinction to help offer unique medical benefits and effect profiles. Five different chemotypes have been identified as follows:

🪴 Type I: the “drug type” because of its high THC content and low CBD:THC ratio

🪴 Type II: the “intermediate,” consisting of nearly equal parts THC and CBD

🪴 Type III: the “fiber” or “non-drug type” is mainly CBD

🪴 Type IV: which is predominantly cannabigerol (CBG), with little THC present

🪴 Type V: material with undetectable amounts of any cannabinoids

Ultimately, it is up to each consumer to try experimenting with different strains and potencies to find what works best for you. Be sure to keep track of your findings!

What Does It Feel Like to be High on Cannabis?

If this is your first time using cannabis, you are likely curious about the experiential feeling during the process such as how it will make you feel in the moment. Getting “high” or “stoned” does not have to be scary. For many it is really fun. Though, as we know everyone is different, the plant can have drastically different effects on each individual. Some people find cannabis to be calming while others find it energizing. For many, the munchies are real, causing you to be inclined to eat combinations of foods you might not normally consume. Really if you have never experienced cannabis before you should proceed with caution as it is important to not use too much inducing a negative reaction such as anxiety, panic, and paranoia. The following are the common reactions, good and bad, to cannabis:

✅ euphoric

✅ relaxed

✅ amused 

✅ giggly

✅ creative

✅ hungry

✅ increased sensitivity

😬 anxiety

😬 confusion

😬 delusions and hallucinations

😬 high blood pressure

😬 nausea and vomiting

😬 panic

😬 paranoia

😬 psychosis

😬 racing heartbeat

Can You Get Addicted to Cannabis?

It is critical our language around cannabis is not too quick to judge or report, rather a balance between what is common and uncommon. An uncommon reaction is for an individual to become addicted to cannabis in the same manner as other substances do with uncontrollable cravings affecting daily functioning. However with regular or heavy use, it is common for individuals to develop a dependence on cannabis. Dependence causes the brain to adapt to large amounts of cannabis causing more frequent use to feel the effects, which creates a potential for financial or social risks. Another way to think about it is as a really bad habit that is very hard to break such as smoking cigarettes. Habitual or dependent cannabis use may produce withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, such as:

🚩 moodiness 

🚩 irritability

🚩 nausea 

🚩 difficulty sleeping

🚩 change in eating habits

🚩 sweating

🚩 shaking

🚩 diarrhea

If you become concerned about dependence or withdrawal, be sure to consult your doctor, therapist or other medical professionals within your self-care routine.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5531363/

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/can.2018.0039

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4883103/

Cannabis: The facts. (2017).
nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/cannabis-the-facts/

Is marijuana addictive? (2020). drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive

Morales P, et al. (2017). Molecular targets of the phytocannabinoids: A complex picture. Phytocannabinoids. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-45541-9_4

What is marijuana? (2019).
drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

What is the scope of marijuana use in the United States? (2018).
drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states

Heustis MA. (2007). Human cannabinoid pharmacokinetics. DOI:
1002/cbdv.200790152

Is marijuana medicine? (2018).
cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/is-marijuana-medicine.html

Piomelli D, et al. (2016). The cannabis sativa versus cannabis indica debate: An interview with Ethan Russo, MD. DOI:
10.1089/can.2015.29003.ebr

Schauer GL, et al. (2014). Toking, vaping, and eating for health or fun. DOI:
10.1016/j.amepre.2015.05.027

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Track CBD & Meditation Hero

How to Track Your CBD and Mediation Progress

Jessica Christion

written by

Jessica Christion

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

written by

Namen Namestein

reviewed by

Namen Namestein

If you have tried out CBD with your meditation practice then hopefully you are aware of the benefits, sometimes when you are just starting out trying new forms of CBD and even new ways to meditate can seem a bit overwhelming.  One suggestion I have for beginners is to track your CBD and Meditation combinations through journaling your experience. Trust me doing this will make the process a whole lot easier and more enjoyable. If you are new to the benefits of CBD and meditation check out my previous blog called Find Your Mind: Making CBD Your New Meditation Partner for a complete overview on the two partners in crime. 

What does it mean to track your CBD and meditation progress?

Tracking your CBD and meditation progress should be done through journaling your experience. Meaning, everytime you try a new form of CBD you would want to keep track of how a particular form of CBD aided in your meditation practice. Since there are different forms of CBD like flower, vaping, topicals, edibles, tinctures and sprays to name a few it can get super overwhelming to keep up on the method that worked or did not work for you. You can find out more information about 4 Ways to Incorporate CBD into Your Meditation by reading my previous blog. This will tell you all about the different ways to consume CBD. 

Why It’s Important to Track

CBD can get expensive, especially if you are trying various methods and not keeping up with how they affect you. Tracking is a great way to keep up with cost, dosage, form of CBD and how it helped with your meditation practice. When you are first starting your CBD and meditation journey you are going to want to find what best works for you so that you have something to go back and refer to. You can also share your experience with friends and family who can also benefit from the combination. It would be nice to find multiple forms of CBD that work for you as well. You can see if different types of meditations like mindfulness, guided meditations, or Transcendental Meditation compliment a specific type of CBD form. I really encourage you to use a tracking method like journaling, or even keeping track on a chart or spreadsheet that you can print. 

How to track your CBD and mediation progress: 

This is the last step to your CBD and Meditation partnership. The best thing you can do on this wonderful journey is to journal your experience and Reflect… Reflect… Reflect! This will be the only way to truly know if the CBD and Meditation combo is the right fit for you. You also want to keep track of the effects it had on your body during meditation. It is important to journal every time you try a new consumption method so that you can find the best and most useful form of CBD for you.

Here are a few things you may want to ask yourself when journaling:

  • What way did I choose to consume CBD? 
  • How long did it take for me to feel each form?
  • What is my dosage for said form.
  • What is my monthly cost to use said form?
  • How did I feel getting into my meditative state? Did it take me a long/short time with this form? 
  • How did I feel after my meditation?
  • How long was I able to meditate? 

Conclusion

I hope your CBD and Meditation Journey is fulfilling and that you can find peace in your busy everyday life. It is important to always make sure your self-care is up to par to be the best you that you can be. Although it may seem like meditation is not for you, consider the fact that it may just be uncomfortable to face our thoughts, and really become relaxed. CBD can help you become more comfortable and confident within your practice. I encourage you to try multiple methods, and to give yourself time to adjust to your new partner in crime… and peace!

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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Cannabis for pain Hero

Cannabis for Pain: Does Medicating with Marijuana Increase Abuse Risk?

Of all the conditions that motivate medical cannabis use in the US, chronic pain tops the list. Sixty-six percent of adult Americans now view marijuana as beneficial for pain management. An estimated 62% of patients rely on weed to help render chronic pain more manageable, and plenty more unregistered consumers likely seek it for the same purpose. 

While evidence accumulates that cannabis can work wonders for those living in the grips of chronic pain, it’s not necessarily a quick fix or simple solution. Cannabis is a nuanced plant medicine that can elicit distinctive effects at different doses and provoke varied responses depending on delivery method and body chemistry. 

Get it right and you have a powerful plant-based ally that can help lower your volume of pain. Get it wrong and you may experience paranoia, nausea, or other unwanted side effects.

A recent study published in the January 2020 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that adults who use cannabis to manage pain are at a higher risk of developing a use disorder than those using cannabis for purposes other than pain. The research highlights the need to cultivate an awareness of the potency of cannabis, despite its harmless, non-toxic reputation. 

Does pain lead to cannabis use disorder?

Ultimately, the above study concluded that cannabis consumers living with pain might be vulnerable to adverse outcomes. Healthcare providers treating patients with pain need to monitor for signs of Cannabis use disorder (CUD) and convey credible information and education about the health risks associated with cannabis use. CUD can be characterized by a set of symptoms that affect the behavior, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects of one’s life.

In the study, researchers studied non-medical cannabis consumption, comparing patterns between adults with pain and without pain, and drawing on data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions in 2001–2002 and 2012–2013. Approximately 20% of participants in both surveys had moderate to severe pain.

Those with pain used cannabis more frequently than those without pain in both surveys. In the 2001–2002 survey, 5.15% consumed cannabis for pain compared with 3.74% who didn’t; in the 2012–2013 survey, 12.42% consumed cannabis for pain compared with 9.02% who didn’t.

The researchers found that cannabis use disorder was more prevalent among respondents with pain rather than those without pain. In the 2012–2013 survey, 4.18% of consumers with pain developed cannabis use disorder (CUD), compared with 2.74% who developed the disorder but didn’t consume cannabis for pain. 

Do consumers really understand the plant?

Cannabis consumption and education is also a hot research topic, with a survey, also published in January 2020, reporting significant discrepancies between cannabis consumers’ knowledge and available evidence. Among some of the more striking findings, 74-81% of participants got their understanding of cannabis from their own experiences, while only 18% received information from primary care providers. 

Those who received information from providers had a more thorough knowledge of medical efficacy. Between 38-42% thought cannabis consumption did not increase any risk. Those who consumed medical cannabis more frequently had an increased risk of adverse events. Again, the study’s authors highlighted the need for more education from physicians, caregivers, and dispensaries to raise awareness about both efficacy and risk.

For Dr. Oludare Odumosu, PhD, and CEO of Zelira Therapeutics, cannabis is medicine and must be handled with awareness and a concern for safety. 

“With every medicine, abuse is a risk. Any adverse effect should be taken seriously,” he says. “A 2017 report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine cited pain as a condition for which cannabis is effective,” said Odumosu. “That said, education is an evolving process, and no one should assume that they understand all there is to know about the use of cannabis.”

The treatment of pain with cannabis requires a subtle approach that takes into consideration the subjective qualities of an individual’s pain experience. 

“For example, if you ask me and I say on a scale from one to ten that the pain that I feel is a five, my five might be somebody’s three. Somebody’s three might be somebody else’s ten.” With such variation in pain thresholds, a tailored approach to pain treatment, developed by a cannabis healthcare professional, can be highly beneficial to avoid unwanted effects.

How to stay informed when medicating with cannabis

Odumosu encourages seeking cannabis medicine for pain through state-approved programs with credentialed health practitioners, and he also cautions against turning to the internet for guidance on self-medicating for pain with cannabis. 

“There is an increasing number of scientific articles coming from outside the US, from countries like Israel, Canada, and Australia, with legalized cannabis programs,” he points out. “Although many are custodians of some form of cannabis knowledge, please do not rely on unverified information sources. Engage with practitioners within your state’s program because they know the products that are in your area and have the requisite knowledge and skill sets to guide you to an appropriate medicine.”

Those with expertise and experience can support a safe and effective approach to dosing, as well as selecting the optimal mode of delivery. “Certified physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and healthcare practitioners within the dispensary system are constantly learning and applying what I call real-life empirical data, as well as drawing from the available body of clinical data with patients,” said Odumosu. 

Odumosu further emphasizes the need for providers to monitor patients to reduce the risk of cannabis use disorder. “Because this is an emerging space, we should constantly monitor patients, as we would for any condition. For example,  If somebody presents with cancer, we don’t just hand them a bunch of chemo drugs and say go home,” he said. “They come back; we watch their progression, we’re monitoring several aspects based on the presentation. It should not be any different for cannabis-based therapies.”

This article written by Emma Stone was originally posted on Leafly.com.

Deborah S. Hasin, Ph.D., Dvora Shmulewitz, Ph.D., Magdalena Cerdá, Dr.P.H., et al. U.S. Adults With Pain, a Group Increasingly Vulnerable to Nonmedical Cannabis Use and Cannabis Use Disorder: 2001–2002 and 2012–2013. The American Journal of Psychiatry 177, 7 (July 2020).

 

Kevin F. Boehnke, Saurav Gangopadhyay, Daniel J. Clauw, and Rebecca L. Haffajee. Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States.

Health Affairs 2019 38:2, 295-302. 

 

Patel J, Marwaha R. Cannabis Use Disorder. [Updated 2021 Jul 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131/

 

Kruger DJ, Kruger JS, Collins RL. Cannabis Enthusiasts’ Knowledge of Medical Treatment Effectiveness and Increased Risks From Cannabis Use. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2020;34(4):436-439. doi:10.1177/0890117119899218

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Why Do We Get So SAD Around This Time of Year? Hero

Why Do We Get So SAD Around This Time of Year?

Caroline Platzman

written by

Caroline Platzman

LJG 2021

reviewed by

Laura Geftman, LCSW

written by

Namen Namestein

reviewed by

Namen Namestein

From usually around November until March, as the sun begins to set earlier and the nights feel colder, many individuals experience feelings of melancholy, vulnerability and anxiety. Sometimes, these feelings can manifest into depression, a type that looms at this particular time of year when it gets colder and darker in many places. This condition is known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD or seasonal depression, is characterized by symptoms of depression that can become prominent in fall and winter months, when the days become comparatively colder and darker than the rest of the year. Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder that is cyclical, as depressive symptoms will generally subside when the individual begins to feel comfortable in their environment again. 

Seasonal affective disorder is impacted by both neurological and environmental factors, such as the amount of sunlight we are exposed to and the chemical disposition of our individual brains. Seasonal affective disorder is most common in the colder, winter months but, although it is less common, individuals can experience seasonal affective disorder in the spring and summer as well (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2018).

How common is seasonal affective disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder is extremely common, with over 3 million U.S. cases reported every year. According to Dr. Paul Desan, director of the Winter Depression Research Clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital, about 5% of people live with seasonal affective disorder. And, roughly 33-44% of SAD cases actually turn into non-seasonal major depression cases (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2018).

While anyone can develop seasonal affective disorder, some populations are more at risk than others. Seasonal affective disorder is more common in women than men, and is typically more common in younger populations. However, it can occur at any age. Another factor to consider is location: according to experts, those who live farthest north or south from the equator are more at risk for developing seasonal depression.

Why does seasonal depression occur?

Scientists speculate that people develop seasonal affective disorder for a few reasons. Most notably, the decrease in sunlight in fall and winter months in many parts of the world can affect the body’s internal clock in a negative way. Additionally, hormonal changes in the body may contribute to onset in colder months: lack of sunlight means lower levels of serotonin and melatonin, two hormones that play essential roles in regulating mood and sleep.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder parallel the symptoms of major depression, both mentally and physically. This means that individuals can experience SAD in a number of ways.

Emotional symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include, but are not limited to:

      • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or melancholy
      • Feelings of loneliness
      • Feelings of emptiness
      • Lack of motivation
      • Anxiety or agitation 
      • Irritability

Physical symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include, but are not limited to:

      • Lack of energy
      • Lack of focus
      • Fatigue and tiredness
      • Sleep disturbances
      • Increase or decrease in appetite
      • Weight gain

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder vary from person to person, but a wide range of those living with it report depressive symptoms like lower energy levels and increased fatigue. According to Nussbaumer-Streit et al. (2018), “in addition to depressive symptoms, most patients also experience hypersomnia, increased appetite often accompanied by weight gain, and extreme fatigue during winter months”. In other words, those living with seasonal affective disorder are prone to excessive sleepiness, tiredness, and appetite.

Additionally, an individual might become more irritable or moody during the change in seasons, and feel less energized overall. Plus, the inclination to stay inside during the colder months can make a person feel more like sleeping in or oversleeping, ignoring household tasks and other necessities, or not socializing as much. For the most part, “in summer, SAD patients are free of depressive symptoms. However, little is known whether or not the fear of upcoming depressive episodes impacts their well-being” (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2018). The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can be seemingly daunting, however, they are not impossible to manage.

Is seasonal affective disorder treatable?

Research suggests that seasonal affective disorder is not only manageable, but treatable. In fact, for less severe episodes of seasonal affective disorder, the first choice treatment is light therapy. Other effective treatment options can include certain antidepressant medications as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2018). With the help of a mental health professional, individuals can work through their symptoms most effectively in order to learn healthy and safe ways to cope with symptoms during these months.

Some find solace in the utilization of other treatment options that are more natural in regulating mood and sleep, such as melatonin supplements or cannabis as a way to combat seasonal depression. Exercise and nutrition also play a huge part in the regulation of mood, so sometimes a lifestyle or diet change may help fight seasonal depression (Nussbaumer-Streit et al., 2018).

Bottom line

Seasonal affective disorder is never something to be ashamed about. And, this winter, we have had a new and looming presence amidst the cold and dreary days: a global pandemic. Depression and anxiety are at an all time high, so if you are feeling the pressure, understand you are not alone. And, understand it’s fairly normal to feel this way, particularly now. As Dr. Desan puts it, “The pandemic conditions plus the winter season – a lot of people will find this is a very difficult next few months. It’s not your imagination.” It’s not.

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/its-not-your-imagination-experts-urge-people-suffering-from-seasonal-depression-to-get-help/2401279/

 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31124141/

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

 

Meyerhoff, J., Young, M. A., & Rohan, K. J. (April 2018). Patterns of depressive symptom remission during the treatment of seasonal affective disorder with cognitive‐behavioral therapy or light therapy. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22739

 

Nussbaumer-Streit, B., Pjrek, E., Kien, C. et al. Implementing prevention of seasonal affective disorder from patients’ and physicians’ perspectives – a qualitative study. BMC Psychiatry 18, 372 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1951-0

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Stay calm. Canna-curious is cool! But collect some info first.
If you are:

  • under 25 years old
  • taking any medication
  • at risk for heart disease
  • family history of psychosis
  • family history of mood disorders
  • family history of addiction

…please be sure to consult a medical or mental health professional.

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