Depression — major depressive disorder in clinical-speak — affects 40 million adults every year. It is treatable, but only 40 percent of those affected will seek appropriate help. You can find a list of symptoms, including sadness, increased fatigue, changes in sleep patterns, and thoughts of worthlessness, here.
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Symptoms must last at least two weeks for it to be diagnosed as such. And drugs typically prescribed for the ailment don’t work on some sufferers. The findings on how effective cannabis can be treating depression are mixed, but here are some points to consider.
Start Low And Go Slow
A 2007 Canadian study found THC, one of the main compounds in marijuana that produces the euphoric effect, “is an effective anti-depressant at low doses.” The latter part is significant. Since cannabis strains have different amounts of THC and a number of physiological factors, such as how much a person uses, can affect how it affects the brain. The researchers noted:
Because controlling the dosage of natural cannabis is difficult – particularly when it is smoked in the form of marijuana joints – there are perils associated with using it directly as an antidepressant.
The Cause Matters
Many situations can contribute to depression, including diet and heredity. Researchers at the University of Buffalo, in a 2015 study, found THC reduced chronic stress levels. Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD., said:
Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression. … Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.
The Case For CBD
CBD is the other major compound in cannabis. It doesn’t produce euphoria, but has been shown to be effective at pain relief. After a 2016 study on the compound, researchers concluded it “could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug.”
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The problem, as with most science on medical marijuana, is that the study hasn’t gone to human trials. Cannabis’ designation as a Schedule I drug makes widespread medical research difficult.
The Bottom Line
If at all possible, involve your physician in your decision to use cannabis for depression. Although some science is promising, lack of controlled trials on humans means it is not definitive.