Cannabis for Depression

Depression is a common mental health disorder with more than 300 million people suffering from it globally according to the World Health Organization.

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Depression is a common mental health disorder with more than 300 million people suffering from it globally according to the World Health Organization.  It’s a condition that negatively changes a person’s feelings, thoughts and actions as sadness or loss of interest in life takes over the ability to function appropriately at work or at home. It can vary from mild to severe and is defined as a period of time lasting longer than two weeks, during which a person feels despondent or dejected.  

You may have heard the various claims that cannabis has helped pull some people out of their depressive thoughts and actions, while in others, it only increases them. There’s anecdotal evidence to support both, and a few studies out there may help us understand the plant’s potential role in mental health. 

When we look at the various types of cannabis, we can see that there are thousands of strains or genetic differences in various types of plants. There are indica strains that mostly affect the body and induce drowsiness, versus sativa strains that are most notable for the head high a consumer experiences, and there are many different hybrids which combine the effects of both.  

This is extremely important to consider when you’ve made the decision to try cannabis for depression. It’s imperative to identify the symptoms you’re having so that you can appropriately choose which strains will benefit you most.  

For example, if you’ve noticed that you’re sluggish, have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, or have very little interest in doing anything all day long, then looking into a sativa or sativa-dominant hybrid strain would best be suited for your type of mental state. Sativa tends to increase energy and  encourage neural activity, making it easier for you to find the motivation you need to get through the day. If you can get through the day but have racing thoughts at night that keep you up, then a heavy indica strain that relaxes and sedates could be well-suited for you. If you find yourself overeating, there are strains that can potentially suppress appetite and vice versa – strains that increase appetite for anyone suffering from frailty or wasting syndrome.  

This is often a problem many studies don’t fully acknowledge when testing cannabis use for depression. There are different types of depression, along with different types of cannabis, and each individual must  choose a product according to their needs rather than trying to fix every form of depression with one type of cannabis strain.  

For the anecdotal evidence that suggests cannabis increases depression, it’s quite possible those individuals were not taking the appropriate strain suited for their symptoms or took too much which can actually increase symptoms of depression. However, until more studies are conducted investigating these theories, we can’t draw any firm conclusions. Be conservative, choose safely and wisely. 

Despite our lack of knowledge as to whether or not cannabis can treat depression, there are a few studies that suggest it is a possibility. A recent one done in August of 2018 at Washington State University studied cannabis for negative affect – which is defined as a personality variable that creates poor self-concept or negative emotions. Depression falls under this definition, though other mental illnesses such as chronic anxiety and stress do as well.  The study found that depression symptom ratings were lowered in 89% of the tracked smoking sessions, and there was no change in symptoms in 7.5% of the tracked sessions. This tells us that there’s definite potential, but like a pharmaceutical drug, cannabis can only help the symptoms. It won’t reverse the root cause of depression. 

Another study done in 2006 by researchers at McGill University titled their study as “Cannabis, a double-edged sword” and for good reason. Their results found that when taking the plant in lower doses, it can indeed act as an antidepressant. However, higher doses can worsen symptoms. In other words, it’s like any other antidepressant medication that always warns of the possibility symptoms could worsen instead of fade. 

Perhaps the best way of dealing with depression is to pinpoint the cause and work toward eliminating it by changing perception of our mental state. However, like any other disease, the transition can be painful and often a medicine is needed to help get through the phases of healing. We recommend speaking with your doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist if you want to give cannabis a try for relieving depressive symptoms. Remember to be mindful of the strain you’re choosing and learn how to properly dose it.

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