The uses of medical marijuana continue to expand as more and more research is conducted on the drugs many benefits. One area that still requires further research is the use of cannabis to treat psychological disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. Although research is still in the early stages, it appears that marijuana and its related chemical compounds could be a promising treatment for depression. To determine if the use of cannabis for depression is effective, your first need to understand what depression is, and identify how marijuana might work with the body to alleviate depression symptoms. It is also important to look at how the use of cannabis as a treatment would look and what impact it would have on depression.
What is Depression?
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a psychological disorder related to mood and behavior that has been linked to physical symptoms as well. According to the National Institute of Mental Health , depression is a common and serious mood disorder that can affect daily activities and overall health. It may cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and worse. Depression is so common that Mental Health America  indicates it affects more than 16 million adults in America each year. Depression is believed to be caused by changes in the levels of certain compounds in the brain like serotonin that regulate mood and produce positive feelings.
Depression is typically treated with medication and other therapies. Most commonly, antidepressant medications designed to help with mood and reduce depression symptoms is prescribed. This medication is often taken on a long-term basis. One of the drawbacks of this conventional depression treatment is the high risk of side effects associated with the commonly prescribed medications. Side effects like increased sleepiness, increased appetite, weight gain, concentration problems, sexual dysfunction, dramatic mood changes, and even thoughts of suicide can occur. The substances can also cause serious withdrawal symptoms and may not even work for some individuals.
Could Cannabis Cure Depression?
To determine whether cannabis cures depression you have to look at the research, the science, and how individual components of marijuana might affect the body and the mind. The Huffington Post  recently reported on a study from the University of Buffalo that indicates marijuana is an effective treatment for depression caused by chronic stress. The research indicates that certain compounds found in cannabis act like chemical compounds the body produces naturally. The compatibility of these chemicals with receptors in our brains shows cannabis may compensate for reduced levels of key compounds in the body and could improve certain mental issues.
Studies have also shown that cannabis has been effective at reducing other mental concerns, including post-traumatic stress disorders, which can affect the brain in ways similar to depression. Marijuana has been used throughout history as a treatment for depression and mental health. In low-doses, the compound in cannabis can work to improve the mental state of the user. This is believed to be because of the way chemicals like THC increase serotonin levels and restore endocannabinoid levels, which help to improve mood, improve stress response, and stabilize mood. More research needs to be conducted to fully understand how marijuana works within the brain to improve depression symptoms and mental health.
It is also important to consider how cannabis could improve over typical depression treatments. Harvard Health Publications  indicated in one of their mental health reports that cannabis has fewer side effects that other medical treatments for depression. Although the same article indicates that marijuana may have some side effects, including increased anxiety and potential addiction, it stated they were less severe than those associated with prescription medications. Cannabis is less likely to cause physical withdrawal symptoms or mood swings like those associated with antidepressants. Also, there is no risk of overdose associated with using marijuana as a medical treatment.
Treating Depression with Cannabis
Cannabis and its byproducts have been used to treat depression in a several different ways. The most common form of cannabis as a depression treatment is smoking or using other methods to inhale cannabis. Harvard Health Publications  indicates that inhalation is the fastest way to get marijuana into the system. In this case, true cannabis is being used as the product, often with minimal processing. It is also possible to use other versions of natural cannabis like oils or other concentrated cannabis products. Cannabis treatments for depression may also be administered in other forms, including ingesting concentrated forms of cannabis or using edible products. In other studies and medical situations, natural and artificial forms of certain key chemical compounds in marijuana are used for treatments. This includes natural and artificial THC isolates, natural and artificial CBD isolates, and treatments that combine with cannabinoids.
Cannabis Depression Treatment
The most common way to treat depression with cannabis is by using marijuana itself. Many users self-medicate because the use of medical marijuana is still quite limited. They swear that marijuana cures depression for them, even if they do not have the support of medical treatments to prove their beliefs. Research has indicated  that small doses of cannabis can improve mental state, alleviate symptoms of depression, and aid in coping with depression. Smoking small amounts of marijuana on a routine basis may help to control or cure depression over time. The tricky part is finding the right dose to control depression symptoms. Too little, and you will not achieve depression relief. Too much, and you could make symptoms even worse.
In addition to smoking marijuana as a treatment for depression, it can be processed into edible forms. Edible forms of cannabis are ideal for those who have concerns about the long-term effects of smoking on the lungs and airways. Dosing for depression with edibles is not as effective as smoked treatments because edibles take longer to enter the bloodstream and work within the body and brain. There can also be a wide margin of difference in the amount of active ingredients depending on which product you purchase or how you make the edible in your own home. This can make dosing even more complicated. Edibles do offer added convenience in many ways that makes them a good treatment option for some.
THC Depression Treatment
One of the most studied chemical compounds in cannabis is THC. THC depression treatments
have shown promise in laboratory studies on using both animals and human subjects. Isolated from the rest of the chemicals in cannabis, THC still produces effects that improve mood, generate feelings of euphoria, and can have a positive impact on depression symptoms. Similar to using cannabis as a treatment, dosing is extremely important in making sure THC improves symptoms rather than worsens them. The sedative effects of THC have been widely documented  and can increase symptoms like lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, and hopelessness if used in high doses.
Various methods have been used to provide dosing with THC. Smoking cannabis, especially types with high THC content, remains one of the most effective ways to intake THC. Inhalation is the most common and efficient form of treatment with THC according to Harvard Health Publications . Concentrating high-THC cannabis into oils or similar concentrates and then vaporizing those forms may be even more effective. Pill versions using artificial THC have also been tested, but take longer to enter the bloodstream. In Canada, an oral spray version has become available that combines THC with cannabidiol or CBD. The spray, which is used under the tongue, allows the active ingredients to enter the bloodstream faster than pill versions.
CBD Depression Treatment
Harvard Healthhas even connected CBD to neuroprotective and antipsychotic effects, although more research is needed to prove its effectiveness in treating depressive disorders. Research has shown a strong positive impact when CBD and THC are used together. The two chemicals appear to be most effective for treating depression when combined. CBD is available as an isolate in artificial pill form. It can also be found in the Canadian spray, called Sativex, mentioned above.
As you can see from the details in this article, some research has been done into the effectiveness of cannabis as a depression treatment, but more medical proof is needed to truly call it a cure. Results have shown promise, as the natural chemicals in marijuana are similar to key hormones in the brain that are responsible for stabilizing and improving mood. Another benefit to cannabis in the treatment of depression and related mental conditions is the reduction in side effects when compared to common depression treatments. Inhalation remains the quickest and most effective way to use cannabis and its related chemical compounds as a treatment.Other forms of THC and CBD are being tested, including edibles, pills, and sprays. Using cannabis to treat depression may be a newer technique, but for some, it is a trusted and proven option.
1. Web-site health.harvard.edu, an article “Medical marijuana and the mind”
2. Web-site huffingtonpost.com, an article “Depression and marijuana”
3. Web-site medicalmarijuana.com, an article “Marijuana as a treatment for depression”
4. Web-site nimh.nih.gov, an article “Depression”
5. Web-site mentalhealthamerica
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