Our values and attitudes towards health and medical professionals is largely informed by our community and social influences. These influences vary greatly given an individual’s ethnicity, age, education, socioeconomic circumstance and the local policies and advertising surrounding health services. Social influences around healthcare affect our behaviours, which in turn have a direct impact on our health status and outcomes.
No matter the social, ethnic or geographical influences, what is observed globally is men’s health ( burden of disease, mortality rate, confidence to engage in personal health) significantly lags behind females. Men have lower life expectancy than women, are more prone to illness and accidents, and are generally less likely to seek help for their physical or psychological well being.
During Men’s Health Week, institutions, community groups and men’s health advocates aim to shine a light on men’s health. By challenging and debating key issues and status quo surrounding men’s health we can elevate the importance of health outcomes and needs for men.
One particular area worthy of attention is men’s mental health: men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Masculine socialisation is notorious for perpetuating destructive coping mechanisms, such as bottling things up, avoiding talking to friends, family or health professionals about psycho-emotional stressors, and abusing alcohol as a coping strategy. Fortunately, these attitudes are beginning to change. The healthcare sector and society as a whole are recognising the importance of implementing policies, education and resources that challenge the old paradigm, promoting more easeful access and opportunities for men to engage in their physical and mental wellbeing.
Coincidentally, that acknowledgement of the importance of men’s health, mental health and medical cannabis have evolved in similar timeframes. Each of these issues has suffered stigmatisation within our society.
Medical cannabis has long been sought out in the treatment of mental health conditions and while the stigma surrounding medical cannabis and mental health is lessening, evidence-based research has yielded mixed results. Conditions where medical cannabis is shown to benefit include anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD.
Further trials will uncover exactly how and which cannabinoids ameliorate mental health symptoms most effectively. In the meantime, medical cannabis is an extra option for patients looking to avoid side effects or dependency risk of conventional medications, and patients may like to discuss this option with their treating doctor.
So let’s review what we know about medical cannabis in the context of some prominent mental health conditions.
Anxiety affects approximately one in five males in Australia at any given time. There’s a huge variety of ways anxiety can manifest; physically, with panic attacks chest pain or racing heart feelings of restlessness or tension; psychologically, excessive worrying fear or obsessive thinking; and in behaviours of avoiding or isolating from work, study or social circumstances.
One in every eight Aussie men will experience depression in the course of their lifetime. Despite decades of misinformation and stigmatisation in relation to medical cannabis and mental health conditions, trials show formulations dominant in CBD oil have been effective in ameliorating symptoms of depression.
Scientists believe endocannabinoid system functions, the action of CBD oil on the prefrontal cortex and its interactions with serotonin receptors account for medical cannabis’ mood-elevating qualities. In treating depression, whether it be with conventional antidepressants or medical cannabis, the dosage is incredibly important, and only certain doses have been shown to be effective.
Finally, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition where there has been plenty of interest in medical cannabis treatments. Ongoing trials are investigating how medical cannabis can address some of the main debilitating symptoms of PTSD.
For many experiencing PTSD, their capacity for effective extinction and long term storage of memories is impaired, leading them to re-experience traumatic events as if they were occurring in the present. CBD oil has been researched in its capacity to improve memory extinction and positive results in humans lend credence to further research.
Multiple studies support medical cannabis in relieving some of the key symptoms of PTSD; night sweats, sleep, pain and flashbacks. While men aren’t more likely to experience PTSD compared to women, veterans of the male-dominated defence and army forces are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.
For those interested in medical cannabis as a potential therapeutic treatment, speak to your doctor about whether this is suitable for you. There is also information on the CA Clinics website, and you can book a CA Clinics medical cannabis screening consult.
If you or someone you know would benefit from extra support, connection or health advice here are a range of resources to assist:
By Jessica Kindynis