…Cannabis and the Holidays
For many of us, the Holiday Season is a period of celebration, sharing and cheer. For others, especially those with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) it can be a challenging time. Issues such as loneliness, lack of a support system, and pre-existing family stress or discord can trigger a short-term mental health crisis during the holidays. Even for those with great support, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be triggered when the clocks are set back. To make matters worse, those with social anxiety are thrust into demanding social situations that they are obligated to attend for work-related or family reasons. Silently hidden among the joy and celebration, the one in four of us that live with mental health issues are struggling to maintain balance and composure. For many, cannabis can be a lifeline to equilibrium and coping.
I happen to be that one in four. From an early age, I have struggled with anxiety, depression and PTSD—the trifecta of mental health issues. Personally, I spent years running the gamut of pharmaceuticals to try to alleviate my conditions with limited or no success. Some pharmaceuticals didn’t work at all. Others seemed to help but came packaged with a host of unpleasant side effects that negated the benefits they offered. Others were potentially addicting. Fortunately, for myself and many others, medical cannabis was the key to wellness. I have spent over two years in, what I call, remission from my mental health challenges—thanks to this wonderful healing plant.
Since I plan to do a series of articles in the new year related to specific mental health conditions and cannabis—citing research and studies, I would like to discuss the more immediate and short-term potential benefits of cannabis for mental health. Since cannabis is now available recreationally, the general population has access. This allows anyone to explore the medical benefits if they choose. This can potentially be valuable short-term aid. If an individual finds cannabis particularly effective, we are always prepared, in the medical system, to better assess and advise making cannabis medicine a more permanent solution.
Indica cannabis strains are associated with stress and anxiety reduction. They are known for their calming and relaxing properties, especially for those with anxiety. A few puffs of indica before a stressful social event can help anxiety to subside and facilitate awkward social interaction. Conversely, sativa strains have a cerebral, energizing effect that may aid or stimulate those with lethargic depression and help motivate them to participate or attend events more easily.
Cannabis can also potentially be a good substitute for some who may have issues consuming alcohol. Some studies suggest that cannabis can potentially help alcoholics wean and stay off alcohol. Some people simply don’t like the feeling alcohol creates and feel more at ease with cannabis. Many don’t like the optics of drinking in a work-related environment like a Christmas party. Consuming cannabis before the event can allow one to be pleasantly elevated for a couple of hours without feeling scrutinized at the venue by peers and employers. This can allow one to participate without feeling self-conscious.
Cannabis is now legal to gift in Canada. While it may not be ideal for everyone, it can be a novel gift for someone difficult to shop for. If one is ambitious enough, creating a cannabis advent calendar for an enthusiast could be a unique and personal gift for that person who has everything. A batch of cannabis cookies can also put a new twist on an old tradition.
Some cautionary words to consider this holiday season. Cannabis is no different than alcohol or anything else intoxicating--don’t consume and drive--or allow others to do so. Always go low and slow with cannabis—especially for novices. Keep all cannabis safe from pets and children. Make sure all cannabis products are kept in clearly marked containers. Never give anyone cannabis or edibles without their knowledge or consent. Although it is impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis. having too much THC can make one feel like they are dying and may result in an unnecessary trip to the hospital emergency. People with anxiety should be cautious with sativa strains, which can potentially compound anxiety or cause paranoia. If someone has had too much THC, chewing black peppercorns or giving them CBD can help counteract the effect and keep them grounded.
For those ambitious enough, cannabis can even become a central part of a holiday feast. With a little research, almost any food or drink can be infused with cannabis for a unique and enjoyable feast or snack. The key to edibles is using carefully tested recipes and online calculators to ensure that the cumulative amount of cannabis consumed per person is at an appropriate strength for each of those who will be consuming any. People must absolutely be aware that they will be participating, and the amount they consume should be carefully considered.
Edibles can take up to 90 minutes to kick in, so everyone, especially those with limited experience, need to proceed with knowledge and caution. Overconsumption can potentially ruin everyone’s evening and is completely avoidable. Properly planned and executed, an infused meal can be unique, enjoyable, and memorable for all those who attend.
Be safe, share the joy of the season, and good health to everyone.
See you in the New Year.