Cannabis & Mental Health

As the cold winter months approach, millions of people across the country find themselves feeling down in the dumps for no particular reason.  This condition, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), is a type of depression that emerges during the same season every year...typically as the days begin to shorten and the temperature drops.  It tends to strike those with otherwise “normal” mental health during the warmer months.

While people suffering from anxiety may experience a slight uptick in their depressive symptoms come winter, those already diagnosed with major depression (year-round) may not experience any change in their symptoms.  Regardless, the hectic nature of the holiday season can send anyone, depressed or not, into a stressful mental tailspin.

Until recently, prescription medications have been doctors’ go-to recommendations for the treatment of mental health conditions.  These lab-created meds can indeed be effective, but they don’t come without downsides.  Benzos, also known as tranquilizers, are a frequently-prescribed class of medications to treat anxiety.   They do so by manipulating channels in the central nervous system, allowing chloride to enter the neurons, thus making them negatively-charged and resistant to excitation.  Viola!  Decreased anxiety.  But benzos also come with a high risk of addiction and abuse, and overdosing can lead to death.

SSRIs, on the other hand, have been classically used to treat depression by blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the brain.  Common side effects are insomnia, nervousness/agitation, and sexual dysfunction that may or may not improve once the medication is discontinued.  And oftentimes, SSRI patients must endure weeks of feeling worse before the medication starts to make them feel better.  In fact, while antidepressants may improve the condition, they may also increase the risk of suicide.

We’re not trying to scare anyone here.  We simply want more people to know that there exists a much safer, sometimes more effective treatment for mental health conditions:

CANNABIS.

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Cannabis works differently than pharmaceutical medications.  Instead of directly triggering specific types of receptors that force the increase of certain chemicals in the brain, the cannabinoids that enter your body when you consume cannabis interact with your endocannabinoid system, or ECS.  The ECS triggers all types of chemical reactions, including those that affect mood.  These interactions promote homeostasis, or optimal balance, in the mind and body.  (For a more in-depth overview, check out this awesome HERB article: Here’s How Cannabis Affects Mental Health).

Consider this sequence of logic: we know that maintaining a healthy endocannabinoid system equals more stable emotions (i.e. less anxiety and depression), and increased overall health in general.  We also know that the endocannabinoid system can be fortified with cannabis.  Therefore, cannabis can lead to increased mental health.

Most importantly: it’s VERY safe.  Cannabis has been responsible for zero (0!) deaths throughout the history of time.  Compare this with benzos, which were involved in 31% of deaths (22,767 to be exact) from prescription drug overdoses in 2013.  And that was just in the US.

Still on the fence?  In 2016, a team of researchers conducted an extensive review of 31 studies on the science behind treating mental health issues with cannabis.  Their findings: cannabis CAN benefit people dealing with depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.  

Dr. Zach Walsh, one of the authors on the review, stated “[Cannabis] is a substance that has potential use for mental health.  We should be looking at it in the same way [as other drugs] and be holding it up to the same standard.”

This is what drives our team at Releaf.  As more states turn “green” and more people are given the chance to try cannabis out for themselves, either to treat a specific condition or just improve their well-being, we want to help them succeed.  And we believe that mindful cannabis use is the key to success.  

When using cannabis, we encourage you to record everything about your experience.  This is the best way to truly learn what’s working for you.

We did, and we know you can too.

 

New to Releaf?  Download our FREE app and track your cannabis sessions today!

iOS: https://releafapp.com/ios

Android: https://releafapp.com/android

 

For everything you need to know about logging a session in Releaf App, check out these tutorials:

Getting Started with Releaf: Starting a New Session

Getting Started with Releaf: Logging a Session

 

Introducing: Group Codes

Here at Releaf, we’re constantly working to improve the app in a way that benefits the patients using it.  We review each and every piece of patient feedback as a team, and do our best to incorporate the most relevant feature requests into new versions of the app.

A little while ago, we received a request from a patient’s caregiver, her son, asking if there was a way he could remotely monitor her cannabis sessions.  Soon after, we received a similar request, this time from an RN who was asking if there was a way she could monitor her patients’ sessions.  

At the time, there wasn’t a way to do these things.  Our patients’ privacy is at the top of our priority list.  The data from their logged sessions is always anonymized and cannot be traced back to them.  But what if they WANTED to share this data with a family member, caretaker, nurse, or doctor?  

We put our heads together and came up with a solution: Group Codes.  By reaching out to us and requesting a custom group code, now you can easily share your cannabis experiences and progress with the administrator of that group.  Groups can have as few or as many members as you like.

Here’s how to join a group (it’s easy!):

1. From the “more” menu in the bottom nav, tap “my groups.”

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2. Tap the plus icon to join an existing group, and type the name of that group into the field provided.

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3. Answer the confirmation prompts, and viola!  Your session data will now be shared with your group’s administrator.

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If you would like to create a Group Code, or if you have any feedback for us on this new feature, you can do one of the following:

  1. Tap “leave feedback” in the More menu, or

  2. Shoot us an email at contact@releafapp.com

Happy tracking!

PS - new to Releaf?  You can download the app for FREE right here!

For everything you need to know about logging a session in Releaf App, check out these tutorials:

Getting Started with Releaf: Starting a New Session
Getting Started with Releaf: Logging a Session

Appreciating the Unique Effects of Cannabis

When we first started designing Releaf as a way for patients to track how different types of cannabis affected their various symptoms, we did a lot of internal research.  This was back in 2014/2015.  We’d fire up our vaporizers, sit back, and take notes on what we considered valuable about our experience. The ability to monitor our symptom level was a given; after only a hit or two of fresh flower, we immediately started feeling better.  But we also started feeling different, and we wanted a way to track those differences as well.

Knowledge is Power: Introducing the 30-Day Report

Picture yourself walking up to the counter at your dispensary.  Samplings of 30 different strains of flower lie before you, with names like Pineapple Express, Super Lemon Haze, and Grandaddy Purple, all enclosed in jars neatly labeled with their unique cannabinoid testing results: percentages of THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, THCA...the list goes on.  Beneath the glass counter, the selection of other cannabis products are endless - tinctures, topicals, cartridges, and edibles galore.  The budtender asks, “What’ll it be?”  

How do you come to a decision?   Do you know what’s been working for you lately in alleviating your unique set of symptoms?  Are you able to say with confidence what it is you really want to purchase, because you know it’ll work for you?  What if they’re out of your go-to strain?  Do you remember if it was high-THC or had more of a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio, or who the grower was, so you can try to select another strain like it?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and what’s more, with the nature of how cannabis affects many of us, it’s very common to forget what worked for you in the past.  You might remember taking a liking to Pineapple Express, for instance, but might not be able to recall if it helped you get to sleep or kept you up for hours, engaged in conversation with a friend.  

Back in 2015, we began designing the Releaf App as a tool with which patients could record their treatment experiences.  We did so because we strongly believe in how important it is to learn...and remember...how different types of cannabis affect you as an individual.  For the past two years, we’ve been continually refining and strengthening this tool based on patient feedback.  

And now, we’re very excited to share Releaf’s newest feature: the 30-Day Report!

The 30-day report is a look into your current relationship with cannabis, and how you’re using it to manage your symptoms.  It’s important to have a record of everything you’ve tried in the past and how it made you feel, but what’s even more important is what’s been working for you recently.  Perhaps, a year ago, your favorite strain was Blue Dream, and joints were your preferred method of intake.   But this was before you purchased a vaporizer, or before you started experimenting with edibles for their longer-lasting effects.  

The report gives helpful insight into how “current-you” is best interacting with cannabis.  It’s comprised of four sections to help you keep track of how things are going as you continue exploring all that cannabis has to offer.

Calendar

The calendar is a snapshot of your session history over the past 30 days.  It gives you a helpful look into your treatment habits, so you’ll be better equipped to answer the question, “How frequently do you medicate?” when your doctor asks at your next appointment.

Can’t remember that great strain you tried last Sunday?  Now, that information is easy to retrieve.

Symptom Report

The Symptom Report shows which symptoms you’ve been treating with cannabis over the past 30 days, and your average rating for each.  Use this to know which symptoms you have under control, and which symptoms you’re still figuring out how to best treat.  Share this with your budtender or doctor to help identify the next best thing to try.

Method Report

The Method Report is an overview of your recent cannabis intake methods, and how well they’ve fared for you.  There are many ways to use cannabis and exploring this is just as important as the strains you try.

Highly Rated Cannabis Report

The highly-rated cannabis report is a quick look at your latest favorites.  Show this list to your budtender so they can make more informed recommendations.  The more you can share with them about what you currently like, the better the chance they help you find your next favorite strain.

We hope you'll find the new 30-Day Report as helpful as we do!

New to Releaf?  Download it now for free!

Releaf Rubies - a step-by-step guide for how to make your own edibles, calculate their potency, and log them in the app

Edibles get a bad rap.  We all know someone who got uncomfortably high after eating a pot brownie (or three).  “I’m never taking edibles again!” they declare after sharing their one-time disastrous experience.

It’s a shame, too, because when consumed responsibly, edibles can be a lot of fun.  More importantly, they can provide several hours of sweet relief to people who suffer from anything from PMDD to chronic pain.  Unlike the effects of smoking or vaping (which can be experienced almost immediately and subside after 1-2 hours) edibles can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to kick in.  This delayed onset period is why many people end up overdosing; they assume the edible isn’t working, so they take more (oftentimes without realizing how potent each dose is).  But if you start with a low dose and patiently wait for the effects to come on, you can achieve a smooth and effective experience that lasts anywhere from 4-8 hours. 

In our opinion, the secret to successful edible usage is simple:

(1) Know how potent your edibles are.  If you’re buying edibles from a dispensary, the THC content will be listed on the packaging.  But if you’re making edibles at home, it’s a little trickier.  (Yes, it involves math.  But it’s 100% worth it!  We’ll show you how.)

(2) Start with a low dose, especially if you’re new to edibles.  Even today's “standard” of 10mg of THC per serving can be too much for some people.  

In this blog post, we’ll be sharing an easy recipe for making gummy edibles from a homemade cannabis tincture.  We’ll show you how to calculate the potency of each serving, and finally, how to enter this information into your Releaf App so you can see for yourself how your homemade edibles affect you.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. cannabis tincture
1 oz. (4 packets) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cups (1 packet) of sugar-free Jello flavoring
1/2 cups of cold water
silicone candy molds
cooking oil spray

Step-by-Step Guide

Check out our step-by-step instructions for how to make this easy recipe!

Now for the math...

We know that our original batch of homemade tincture had 3,540mg of THC in the 2 cups we made.  There are 16 tbsp in 1 cup, or 32 tbsp in 2 cups.  Since our gummy recipe calls for 4 tbsp of tincture, we want to figure out how much THC is in the entire recipe.

We'll start by calculating how much THC is in 1 tbsp of tincture:

We'll multiply that number by 4 to determine how much THC there is in the entire gummy recipe:

Now, all we have to do is divide the total amount of THC by the number of gummies we made to figure out how much THC is in each gummy:

If you're new to edibles, 20.11mg of THC in one go might be unwise, but 1/4 of that is a good starting point!  Luckily for us, the diamond molds we selected produced gummies that can easily be quartered.  

Ready for Releaf?

Now that we know exactly how much THC is in one gummy, we can easily enter this information into Releaf on the "add edible" screen:

And when we're tracking a session with them, our handy dosing calculator will tell us how much THC we're consuming with each quarter gummy:

Thanks for reading!  Good luck & happy tracking!

<3 The Releaf team