The Use of Medical Cannabis to Treat Depression
The global pandemic brought by the coronavirus changed most of the way we live. Restrictions on social gatherings and self-isolation are the new normal but not without threat to mental health. The government didn’t leave this fact unnoticed. In fact, they’ve implemented a National Health Plan to help combat the risk of stress, anxiety, depression, and more, among Australians.
Depression affects over 3 million Australians and is one of the leading causes of disability . Although there are several conventional treatments for depression, researchers are still exploring alternative treatments such as Medical Cannabis.
What is depression?
Depression is a medical condition that negatively affects your emotion, action, and how you perceive things. For the most part, depression induces the feeling of sadness and loss of interest in things for a long time. You’ll be diagnosed with depression if the symptoms last for more than two weeks .
Certain health conditions, such as vitamin deficiency and thyroid problems, could mimic the feeling of depression. Depression is also different from grieving and sadness. To rule out similar problems, have yourself checked by a doctor.
Depression can happen anytime but it usually starts to emerge in your late teenage years to your mid-20s . What’s dangerous about depression is it leaves the victim emotionally disabled to not function fully as a living human . Aspects of life such as work, relationship, family, health and more can be negatively affected.
Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. Some of its most common symptoms are:
- The feeling of sadness;
- The loss of interest in things or hobbies previously enjoyed;
- Weight loss or weight gain (mostly not related to dieting);
- Not being able to sleep easily or sleeping too much;
- Fatigue without engaging in any strenuous activities;
- Developing purposeless activities such as pacing back and forth relentlessly;
- Slower movements compared to normal;
- Slowed speech compared to normal;
- Low self-esteem or having guilty feelings;
- Having trouble deciding, concentrating, and thinking in general;
- Having suicidal thoughts.
Treatment for depression varies from one person to another because every depression case is simply different. There are also varying treatments for mild, moderate, and severe cases of depression.
Psychosocial treatments like psychotherapy or “talk therapy” are often used to treat mild depression . At this point, medication is not recommended.
Moderate and sometimes, severe depression cases are treated through psychological treatments such as behavioural and/or interpersonal psychotherapy .
In severe cases, medications such as antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) are recommended as part of the treatment process . Antidepressants have unpleasant side effects which is why they are only taken under a doctor’s supervision .
The use of medical cannabis to treat depression
Medical Cannabis as a form of treatment for depression is still in its infant stage, meaning it’s neither debunked nor approved. For now, the medical world can’t brush aside the fact that Medical Cannabis helps restore the normal functioning of the endocannabinoid system and stabilises mood .
Research conducted at the University of Buffalo, suspects medical cannabis as a potential treatment for depression caused by chronic stress. The study particularly looks into the endocannabinoid system, which has a huge role to play in motor control, cognition, emotions, and behaviour.
One of the study’s noteworthy discoveries is that chronic stress might inhibit the natural production of endocannabinoids. A mal-functioning endocannabinoid system can lead to depression-like behaviour.
After collecting data and reviewing significant literature, they concluded that medical cannabis can restore the balance in the endocannabinoid system, dragging along improvements on mood and behaviour. The study ended on a positive note but the team recommended more research on the subject matter as their experiments were animal-based .
The concept of the link of depression and the endocannabinoid discussed in the University of Buffalo was further cemented by a study led by Wen-Juan Huang.
They concluded that depression and pain (a sensation partly influenced by the endocannabinoid system) are linked. Thus, cannabis’s influence in containing pain greatly improves depression levels. .
Another study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders reports a short-term reduction of depression levels on cannabis users.
Medical Cannabis users perceived 50% reduction on their depression levels and a 58% reduction in stress and anxiety levels. Furthermore, Cannabis with high CBD and low THC levels yield most effective in depression levels .
The current body of research in Medical Cannabis for depression looks promising, but it needs more pruning. Like any other medication, there are risks and side effects to it. This is why a medical practitioner’s guidance is highly encouraged. Therefore, if the Medical Cannabis route interests you, don’t self-medicate. If you think Medical Cannabis is right for you please check with our doctors.
Disclaimer: This is not an inducement to use Medicinal Cannabis. Medical Cannabis doesn’t work for everyone, and it may not work for you. How Cannabis affects a person depends on many things, including their size, weight, age and health, dosage and tolerance, and the results can vary. Some people may experience side effects when taking Cannabinoid medication. The information provided by CDA Clinics is for educational and informational purposes only. For medical advice, please check with your doctor and request a referral.
- WHO. 2020. Depression. Available at: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
- American Psychiatric Association. 2017. What is Depression? Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
- Stanford Children’s Health. N.D. Understanding Teenage Depression. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=understanding-teenage-depression-1-2220
- Saisan, J. et al. 2019. Depression Treatment. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-treatment.htm
- NHS. 2019. Treatment Clinical Depression. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/clinical-depression/treatment/
- NHS Inform. 2020. Antidepressants. Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/tests-and-treatments/medicines-and-medical-aids/types-of-medicine/antidepressants
- Harvard Health Publishing. 2014. What are the real risks of antidepressants? Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-are-the-real-risks-of-antidepressants
- Scherma, M. et al. 2018. New Perspectives on the Use of Cannabis in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313625/
- Wilde, C. 2015. RIA neuroscience study points to possible use of medical marijuana for depression. Available at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/02/004.html
- Huang, W. et al. 2016. Endocannabinoid system: Role in depression, reward and pain control (Review). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5042796/
- Cuttler, C. et al. 2018. A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032718303100?via%3Dihub