Cannabis and Depression: What We Know


Cannabis and Depression: What We Know


Cannabis is the most often used federally illegal narcotic in the United States, and depression is one of the most common mental health concerns. People self-medicate with cannabis for a variety of reasons, including mood problems, based on anecdotal evidence and occasionally study. However, because there are no set pharmaceutical recommendations for these usages, it can be difficult to tell whether cannabis is helping or worsening a problem.

Any time cannabis is mentioned in a medical context, it is important to remember how little is actually understood about how the substance works, partially due to its long history of prohibition, which has made research difficult. We've reached a stalemate, with federal policies limiting serious science.

When it comes to using cannabis to treat depression, the absence of hard facts is a disservice to individuals who could benefit. How much is excessive? Which cannabinoids are best for treating symptoms and which aggravate them? What do the most recent studies reveal? (However, if you're considering using cannabis to treat your depression, you should also consider alternative medications or therapies, especially if your symptoms are severe.)

What research can tell us?

Depression isn't a distinct illness. There are several varieties of depression, each with its own set of symptoms; depression can even present in persons who suffer from chronic pain. There are really too many variables to prescribe a single treatment. (Seasonal depression is very distinct from the low mood swings of bipolar disorder, and the therapies are different as well.)

The same is true for marijuana. When it comes to a plant with hundreds of cultivars and chemical differences dependent on its growing and processing conditions, there are no universals. Even if legality weren't an issue, these unknowns would make study difficult, which is why science is still divided on the use of cannabis for depression and a variety of other medical issues.

"No clinical research has focused on cannabis as a treatment for depression to date," Leafly's Emma Stone recently wrote, "so it's currently difficult to make definitive conclusions regarding whether the plant is helpful or detrimental for those with depression."

There is evidence that the use of cannabis may contribute to the beginning of depression; nevertheless, considerable evidence points to the inverse link; i.e. that depression may lead to the onset or rise in cannabis use frequency, according to a study from 2020.

Another review of several years' worth of research found promise in the hypothesis that cannabis can be fine-tuned to treat certain illnesses under-regulated production circumstances. The analysis stated, that there is currently positive if embryonic, evidence for medicinal cannabis in the treatment of a spectrum of psychiatric diseases. Supportive evidence is developing for a number of critical isolates; nonetheless, doctors should be aware of a number of prescription and occupational safety factors, particularly when starting higher dose THC formulations.

In the absence of research, anecdotal evidence

Some practitioners are even more optimistic. Healing with CBD: How Cannabidiol Can Transform Your Health Without the High is written by Eileen Konieczny, a qualified nurse and board-certified patient advocate who has been advising her patients on cannabis-based therapy since 2008. She believes the herb is generally low-risk when used properly, but warns that it isn't a cure-all and isn't appropriate for all illnesses.

She feels that people are eager to learn about cannabis' potential as a treatment for mental health illnesses because so many people suffer from depression, but that the solutions aren't currently available. Patients deserve to know how a prescription will impact them so they can assess the benefits and drawbacks, she said. Having a clear answer would be beneficial to all parties involved. Unfortunately, clinical evidence supporting the use of cannabis for depression is lacking.

The majority of the data we have is anecdotal, while some of it has been investigated. 89.3 percent of the tracked sessions of 3,000 contacts with symptoms of depression reported a reduction in symptoms, Konieczny said, citing a 2018 study of patient-reported data from Strainprint, an app that allows users to track cannabis use by strain/cultivar and symptom.

When watched over time, these same people indicated a recurrence in depression the longer and more frequently they used cannabis, the researchers said. This could indicate that using cannabis for depression is useful in the short term but worsens baseline depression over time.

We need to learn more about how cannabis impacts the body's endocannabinoid system, as well as the entourage effect—or how cannabis signals that system—before we can truly comprehend how cannabis and depression are linked.

People who engage with cannabis as creatives or as hands-on service providers have shared their own anecdotal proof that the drug can be used to cure depression. Jordana Wright, a photographer, and author of Cannabis for Creatives said she has been on antidepressants for much of her adult life and supplements her medication with cannabis on occasion, with varying benefits.

It sometimes brings me out of acute flare-ups in a painless, predictable way, she explained. There are instances when it has the same impact as listening to sad music when you're depressed—it exaggerates the negative. It all depends on the circumstances, the timing, the strain, the dosage, and your point of view.

Of course, no antidepressant drug—even those with considerable research—works the same for every patient; some people take many before finding one that seems to manage their mental health issues the best without causing too many negative side effects. However, Wright believes that the stigma attached to cannabis prevents most people from considering it as a medication. I de-stigmatized marijuana in my own thoughts and life once. She explained, "I was able to see it as a constructive instrument toward better mental health. Be honest about your cannabis use if you're dealing with a psychologist or psychiatrist. It's critical to have a doctor who is pro-cannabis, or at the very least open to it, if you know it helps you.

Finding the correct treatment, according to Wright, was crucial. I'm fortunate to have found an antidepressant and dosage that allows me to experience a wide range of emotions, but when my symptoms flare up, I prefer cannabis to Xanax. Pot calms [my] racing thoughts and harsh emotions, allowing me to work through difficulties and be more proactive in discovering good patterns and answers.

Danielle Olivarez, the founder of Highlites, a platform for de-stigmatizing cannabis usage for wellness, is also a proponent of moderation and mindfulness, as she told Lifehacker through email. As someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia, I see that overconsumption can rapidly become a kind of self-harm, and that self-awareness aids me in remaining honest and intentional.

People seeking cannabis to treat depression must go it alone in the lack of trustworthy scientific studies, but Olivarez believes they may do it responsibly. I firmly believe in the capacity of cannabinoids to help control depression symptoms...when used deliberately and with self-awareness, she stated.

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