Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behaviour, feelings and sense of well-being. People with depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present.
Depressed mood is a feature of some psychiatric syndromes such as major depressive disorder, but it may also be a normal reaction to life events such as bereavement, a symptom of some bodily ailments or a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments.
Medical Marijuana Efficacy
Besides the self-reports of patients, scientific evidence also points to the endocannabinoid system – the body’s natural cannabinoid system – as having a therapeutic role in depression.
For example, studies conducted on rodents have linked suppression of endocannabinoid activity to symptoms of major depression, while other studies have found increased endocannabinoid activity to have antidepressant-like effects. However, despite evidence that activating the endocannabinoid system can improve symptoms of depression, studies suggest that THC can have both depressant and antidepressant-like effects, depending on the dose.
Specifically, a study published in 2007 found that low doses of a synthetic form of THC (WIN 55,212-2) raised serotonin levels and produced strong antidepressant-like effects in rats, whereas high doses reversed the effects and worsened depression. However, WIN 55,212-2 is approximately 20 times more potent than THC found in marijuana.
Even still, THC has been found (under certain conditions) to exert antidepressant-like effects in patients suffering from pain associated with cancer and multiple sclerosis as well as improve mood and general well-being in healthy test subjects.
Interestingly, THC has also been shown to increase neurogenesis – the growth of new brain cells – much like traditional anti-depressant medications do. Stress and depression are known to decrease neurogenesis, which can also be a side-effect of using alcohol, nicotine, opiates and cocaine.
CBD has also shown to have strong anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety affects and clinical tests have shown that cannabis users smoking lower cannabidiol strains are at a much higher risk of memory impairment. GW Pharmaceuticals are currently developing a high CBD rich strain to treat psychosis.
Official Research Reports
Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study (Celia J. A. Morgan, PhD, Gráinne Schafer, BSc, Tom P. Freeman, BSc and H. Valerie Curran, PhD, 2010)
Cannabis: Potent Anti-depressant In Low Doses, Worsens Depression At High Doses (McGill University, 2007)
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