Depression is an issue growing in importance – can Cannabis assist in treatment?

Depression is a mood disorder. Even those suffering less serious forms of depression may experience a negative toll on their sex life, work performance, sleep patterns and many of the other elements of normal life that those who do not suffer take for granted. More extreme versions – Clinically diagnosed depression, for example – can, if left untreated, lead to heart disease and cancer.

The affliction has become widespread, affecting people from all walks of life. According to the World Health Organization, over 350 million people across the globe suffer from depression. In the US, 16.2 million adults, no less than 6.7% of the total population deal with depression every day.

Currently, Doctors recommend oral medications, using conventional drugs and talking therapies, among other things, to relieve depression. However, in the light of the surging popularity and effectiveness of medical cannabis, researchers are now exploring medical uses of the drug as a supplementary treatment for the condition.

The scientific literature on the subject, as things stand, offers a clear but qualified yes: Cannabis can be used in the treatment of depression – with a few precautions and appropriate medical supervision.

The Scientific ResultsOf Depression and Cannabis studies

Medical research analyzing the effectiveness of medical cannabis for depression is still in its infancy. The field is hindered, even now by Federal legislation which makes obtaining the drug, and working to receive authorization to conduct tests, extremely difficult.

Currently, researchers say that the potential benefits of cannabis include mood stabilization and the restoration of normal endocannabinoid function – effectively assisting in addressing some of the neuro-chemical imbalances which can contribute to the feelings that those with depression face.

Scientists at the University of Buffalo are studying medicinal cannabis to explore possible benefits of treatment from a different angle – in an attempt to assist those who suffer depression as a result from chronic stress. They have also been focusing on one particular compound – Endocannibidols.

Endocannabinoids are naturally-produced chemical compounds generated by our brains. The chemical affects motor control, emotions, cognition and behavior in human beings.

Endocannabinoids are similar to the chemicals found in cannabis and its active compound called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the component of cannabis which gets users ‘high’).

Results from the Buffalo research team have been positive, affirming their hypothesis: They established an increased likelihood that the compounds found in marijuana may be useful in reducing depression caused by chronic stress. It seems cannabis improves depressive symptoms as a result of its ability to stimulate the endocannabinoid system, something that results in increased neurogenesis (it helps patient’s brains heal themselves.)

In 2014, a study published by the Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health found a similar result, stating that medical marijuana is also effective for pain management, as well as depression. Many of the participants in the study noted a decrease in anxiety (a common disorder experienced in concert with depression) and better sleep, while consuming marijuana as part of the test.

Smartphones are now assisting in providing quantitative results for further studies

To get a clearer picture of cannabis’ effectiveness in the treatment of depression, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) analyzed data from a cannabis app called Strainprint. This Canadian software allows the users to rate the symptoms they are experiencing before and after using cannabis, on a scale of 1 to 10.

The team found that adults experienced a reduction in depression with just a single puff of medical cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC – a critical result.

Researchers also found that at least 10 puffs high in both CBD and THC significantly reduce self-reported stress, while two puffs, with any level of CBD or THC resulted in relieved anxiety.

Warnings & Risks of using Cannabis to treat depression

It’s important to note, however, that the results were not a panacea. It would be taking the research too far to assume that self-medicating with cannabis is enough to beat depression. The studies included warnings and precautions that should be kept in mind.

Long-term use of medical cannabis could exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Heavy and regular consumption of cannabis could trigger a flare in other mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and psychosis, especially for those at high risk of psychosis.

The potential side effects of cannabis depend on the quantity consumed as well as the method of consumption. The options for treatment now include a plethora of options beyond a marijuana cigarette. Patients can take the drug as a spray, pill, edible, cream, using patches and a host of alternatives.

Treatment should also be undertaken with medical support

Further, marijuana should only be taken with a prescription from an authorized doctor. As many US States are starting the process of legalisation, it has become easier to access medical marijuana– which could suggest a health risk.

Authorities voice the concerns raised by these studies, with the goal of mitigating the risks their results have established.

In short, the medical community’s view is that marijuana should be used as a supplement, along with standard treatments for depression.

What sort of cannabis works best in the treatment of cannabis?

To treat depression, experts recommend using strains such as Indica and Sativa. Sativa is the most recommended strain for depression, due to its ability to lift mood.

People suffering from depression perpetuated by extreme worry, fixations, or obsession may benefit from Indica’s ability to relax mental tension.

Studies show that CBD oil also may well help people suffering from depression. It causes the brain’s receptor 5-HT1A to produce more serotonin – a chemical in the brain that impacts almost every part of your body, influencing everything from mood to motor skills.CBD oil is available in various forms such as tinctures, capsules, sprays, concentrates, tapes, and topicals and is legal in the UK, even without a prescription.

Close to a Cure? Not yet

Although the outcomes of the studies in this field seem promising, there’s more work yet to be done, to establish up with a conclusive report on the effectiveness of marijuana for the treatment of depression.

Widespread legalization of weed is encouraging more involved research that explores the link between cannabis and depression – an obviously useful step.

Most studies, as we’ve seen have achieved positive outcomes. There is mounting evidence that taking medical cannabis - properly - and with medical support in the form of a prescription and doctor’s oversight, may help combat depression.

Published by Janice Cook