Depression is something that almost everyone encounters at least once in their lives. However, there is a difference between being sad and being clinically depressed.
Approximately 17.3 million adults in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime. Those that live with depression as part of their daily lives will stop at almost nothing to find relief.
Does Cannabis & CBD Help Depression or Hinder Its Treatment?
Today, as more states legalize cannabinoid therapies, many people are asking whether or not cannabis may help depression. In the simplest of answers, it seems that yes, cannabinoid therapies do have something to offer those that live with depression. Let’s take a closer look at what the science says.
What Science Says About Depression and Cannabis Use
A 2006 study on depression and cannabis found that individuals who consume cannabis occasionally or even daily reported having lower depressive symptoms than those who never consume cannabinoids.
Similarly, a study by researchers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands found that THC, particularly from cannabis, may hold the ability to alter the brain’s response to negative emotions and images by activating the endocannabinoid system.
Additionally, the findings of a study titled “The Effectiveness of Cannabis Flower for Immediate Relief from Symptoms of Depression,” which was published in June of 2020, suggests the following;
At least in the short term, the vast majority of patients that use cannabis experience antidepressant effects, although the magnitude of the effect and extent of side effect experiences vary with chemotypic properties of the plant.
The last part of the above sentence indicates that the experience of the user is tied to the particular terpene and cannabinoid profiles of the specific plant the patient is consuming. That is, all cannabis is not created equal when it comes to treating depression. Some varieties contain properties that specifically target bodily systems which contribute to mood stabilization.
Does Cannabis Interfere With SSRI/SNRI Medications?
While some patients find that cannabis offers hope in helping with their depression and related symptoms, some find a combination of therapy coupled with pharmaceutical and cannabinoid therapies provides the most relief. This is why it is also essential to understand any risks that may be associated with consuming cannabis along with commonly prescribed depression medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs.
SSRIs and SNRIs are anti-depression medications that work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain by blocking them from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells. This mechanism intersects with cannabinoids because cannabinoids increase the activity in the neurons that produce serotonin causing potent anti-depressant effect.
Cannabis can have a positive effect on reducing the symptoms of depression.
However, cannabis is biphasic meaning when cannabinoids were increased, the serotonin in the rats’ brains actually dropped below the level of those in the control group, demonstrating a double effect:
“At low doses it increases serotonin, but at higher doses the effect is devastating, completely reversed.”
In addition, mixing cannabis and SNRIs could increase serotonin too fast and might cause sudden serotonin syndrome, which is a medical emergency.
The Cannabis Conclusion
Depression is a debilitating condition that requires a combination of therapies to successfully manage. Patients are best served by physicians who are willing to engage with them at identifying the exact combination of chemical inputs and therapeutic conversation that works best for them.
A large portion of the mental health literature you will see if you Google this subject is focused on the negative intersection between cannabis and the other therapies used to treat depression. Identifying appropriate providers of care who support cannabis use for depression may prove to be a challenge, but increasingly, mental health professionals are acknowledging the safe and effective aspects of cannabis for managing depression and other mental health conditions.