No Scientific Evidence That Cannabinoids Improves Mental Health Conditions

The praise lavished on CBD oil gets checked in a new study.

By Elizabeth Yuko, Ph.D.
March 6, 2020

Over the past two years, most people went from never hearing of something called “CBD” to seeing products containing the substance sold everywhere from gas stations to DSW (yes, the shoe store). Given how quickly cannabidiol (CBD) products became mainstream, it’s taking a while for research to catch up with it. Namely, whether CBD and other cannabinoids live up to the hype. Anecdotal evidence suggests it helps with everything from headaches to insomnia to menstrual cramps, but many wonder whether cannabinoids can help treat symptoms related to mental health conditions. Now, research from the University of New South Wales in Australia (UNSW) is answering that question.

In an article published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal the researchers conducted an extensive meta-analysis of medicinal cannabinoids — including medicinal cannabis, pharmaceutical cannabinoid and their synthetic derivatives, THC and CBD — and their impact on several mental health disorders. They found that there is insufficient evidence that medicinal cannabinoids relieved symptoms related to depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress, or psychosis.

“Our findings have important implications in countries where cannabis and cannabinoids are being made available for medical use,” Louisa Degenhardt, Ph.D., a researcher at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Sydney, Australia and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “There is a notable absence of high-quality evidence to properly assess the effectiveness and safety of medicinal cannabinoids compared with placebo, and until evidence from randomised controlled trials is available, clinical guidelines cannot be drawn up around their use in mental health disorders.”

So at this point, you may not want to rely solely on medicinal cannabinoids — like CBD products — to treat mental health conditions. Given the rise in popularity of this category of substances, more research is likely — and necessary — to learn more about their potential benefit and harm.

About the writer:

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is a bioethicist and writer as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University. She has written for print and online publications, including The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe AtlanticRolling StoneCNNFodor’sLifehackerReader’s Digest and Playboy.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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