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Cannabis and Mental Illness: How Reefer Madness Heals the Mind

A man with a mental illness takes a hit from a joint filled with cannabis to ease his mind.


Cannabis and Mental Illness: How Reefer Madness Heals the Mind

Photo by Prensa420/Flickr

Despite the 1930’s Reefer Madness fear and smear campaign, as well as the now debunked argument that cannabis can cause and/or increase the likelihood of schizophrenia, a group of Brazilian researchers recently published research in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology that suggests marijuana might play a potential role in the treatment of schizophrenics.

With a hat tip to, the researchers investigated rats on an assortment of cannabinoid treatments, including WIN55212,2 (synthetic cannabinoid agonist), rimonabant (synthetic CB1 antagonist), AM404 (anandamide uptake inhibitor), and cannabidiol (CBD).

The researchers studied whether these treatments would block unnecessary stimulation, such as an air conditioner hum. The researchers found that 1 mg/kg of WIN55212,2 successfully reversed the stimulation in the schizophrenic mice. The same effect was reached with 30 mg/kg of CBD, generally thought to be safer than WIN55212,2.

“Our results reinforce the role of the endocannabinoid system in the sensorimotor gating impairment related to schizophrenia, and point to cannabinoid drugs as potential therapeutic strategies,” the research team concluded.

The study follows research in 2004 that found cannabis helps reduce psychosis and a study in 2013 that found CBD could help improve cognition function in schizophrenics.

Schizophrenia isn’t the only mental illness for which cannabis may prove an effective remedy. A 2012 study published in Psychiatry Research found that marijuana may improve cognitive functioning in bi-polar individuals. Patients who used cannabis “demonstrated significantly better performance on measures of attention, processing speed, and working memory” and “had better neurocognitive performance” than those who didn’t, the researchers concluded.

Not only does cannabis not drive you out of your mind, it might actually make you happier. The European Neuropsychopharmacology journal published a study last year that found cannabis could be used to treat depression. The research found that THC altered the brain’s endocannabinoid system to have more positive emotions.

“These results indicate that THC administration reduces the negative bias in emotional processing,” the study concluded. “…Our findings also suggest a possible role for the endocannabinoid system in abnormal emotional processing, and may thus be relevant for psychiatric disorders such as major depression.”

Cannabis may also provide effective treatment for Tourette’s in easing tics, vocalizations and jerking movements associated with the condition. Two clinical studies conducted by German researcher Dr. Muller-Vahl, including one in 2002 and one in 2003 found that THC was successful in reducing tics.

“Our results provide more evidence that THC is effective and safe in the treatment of tics,” the 2003 study concluded. “It, therefore, can be hypothesized that the central cannabinoid receptor system might play a role in TS pathology.”

Unfortunately, no clinical studies have been conducted on cannabis and Tourette’s since 2003.

So rather than the social myth of making you crazy, cannabis may in fact put you in your right mind.

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