Hyderabad: Using marijuana could help some alcoholics and people addicted to opioids kick their habits, according to a new study by researchers of University of British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan, Canada.

“Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce the use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication," says the study’s lead investigator Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Walsh and his team systematically reviewed 31 published studies on medical marijuana and mental health, which encompassed 23,800 participants. In addition, he looked at 29 reviews of non-medical marijuana use, making the study one of the most comprehensive reports to date on the effects of medical cannabis on mental health.

This review of research on the medical cannabis use and mental health also found some evidence that cannabis may help with symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety.

However, the review concluded that cannabis use might not be recommended for conditions such as bipolar disorder and psychosis.

“In reviewing the limited evidence on medical cannabis, it appears that patients and others who have advocated for cannabis as a tool for harm reduction and mental health have some valid points," says Walsh.

“There is not currently a lot of clear guidance on how mental health professionals can best work with people who are using cannabis for medical purposes," says Walsh.

“With the end of prohibition, telling people to simply stop using may no longer be as feasible an option. Knowing how to consider cannabis in the treatment equation will become a necessity."

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among several other names, is a preparation of the cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or medicine. Marijuana is one of the most abused drugs in the world.

In India, marijuana use has been historically bound to faith and mysticism. It is said to be a drug that helps the user attain ecstasy, and is consumed and celebrated as bhang, charas and weed for centuries. It is estimated around 125 million people consume it in some form or the other every year.

Possession and smoking of marijuana are both illegal in India. Marijuana is controlled by the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. However Indian law allows for a loophole that does not ban the consumption of cannabis leaves, only its buds and resin are banned.

Many studies have shown that some ingredients in marijuana are likely to be helpful for people with certain conditions, the findings have yet to come out with specifics such as the dose, the frequency, formulation, and comparative studies with other drugs. It was also found that moderate use of marijuana is far less harmful than tobacco or alcohol consumption.

In the vast majority of countries marijuana sale and consumption is illegal. Uruguay and several states in the US have legalized the cultivation of the drug for recreational or medicinal use in recent years.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty to prohibit production and supply of specific drugs and of drugs with similar effects except under licence for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research—technically prohibits countries from legalising cannabis, except for medicinal use.

There is a growing demand in various countries including India to legalise use of marijuana to create jobs, eliminate illicit trade and help local communities who cultivate cannabis.

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