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Cannabis is praised around the world for its positive effects on the brain, body, and soul. The medical world has approached cannabis with that same mentality, specifically for patients with depression. The primary answer we’re all searching for is: can cannabis help depression? If so many people are rooting for cannabis, it must be changing their lives for the better.
But hey, don’t just take our word for it, check out the facts. According to the Washington Post, nearly 55 million adults currently use cannabis, either daily, monthly, or yearly. 49% of regular users support recreational cannabis. OK, that’s no surprise. But how about this next one? 70% of people who have never tried cannabis support recreational legalization. Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s see what cannabis can do for depression.
Cannabis and Depression
First off, please know that cannabis cannot cure depression. Cannabis is not a one-stop treatment. It is, however, an efficient way to relieve certain symptoms associated with these medical concerns. Cannabis can either be taken on its own or in addition to prescribed medication (with your doctor’s knowledge). Some patients prefer doubling up on remedies, while others have a “no pills” policy. It’s a highly subjective matter. While we cannot make that decision for you, we can provide the facts to help make an informed decision.
Cannabis for the Symptoms of Depression
Although depressed is dubbed the “invisible illness,” many of its symptoms are external. According to WebMD, the improper functioning of nerve cells can lead to chronic pain in the form of headaches, muscle cramps, and digestive problems. Cannabis can help with that! A 2014 study published by the Hawaii Journal Of Medicine and Public Health highlighted a drastic 64% decrease in overall pain while using cannabis. In that same study, many patients noted a decrease in anxiety and better sleep patterns. Nervous behavior and tossing and turning all night are symptoms tied to depression.
Additionally, when it comes to appetite, individuals with depression can either experience weight loss or weight gain. Surely we all know someone who handles stress the same way. Some of us turn to a carton of ice cream, others can’t even bear the sight of food. Cannabis, particularly the indica strains, can boost a person’s appetite. Hello, munchies! Now, again, nothing is an absolute guarantee. If you feel like cannabis is having zero effect, try taking a larger dose next time or exploring other options.
Research into Depression and Cannabis
Another crucial thing to mention is that science has barely reached the tip of the iceberg with cannabis and depression. Research on their connection remains in the early stages, according to HealthLine. Presently, research has concluded that cannabis can maintain mood stabilization. Mood swings are closely tied to depression.
As time goes on, researchers are looking more into the relationship between cannabis and brain chemicals called endocannabinoids. These are naturally-occurring chemicals that play a key role in motor control, cognition, behavior, and emotion. And here’s something ironic: they have a similar chemical makeup to cannabis. Isn’t that convenient? What this means is all humans have something in their brains that reacts to cannabis. It’s been there since birth.
So far, scientists have only performed their studies on animals to test the connection between stress and endocannabinoids. What they found is truly spectacular: chronic stress may suppress the brain’s natural function of endocannabinoids, which can lead to depression-like symptoms. We can see light bulbs going off in everyone’s head right now! Thank you, science, for connecting the dots.
OK, back to the animals. Scientists hypothesize that by adding cannabis into their system, they’ll restore “normal” brain levels and functions, which, in turn, may ease symptoms of depression. Of course, nothing is set in stone yet and more studies need to be performed. Maybe on humans in the near future? Cannabis will always draw a mixed bag of emotions and reactions from the public.
But Is It Safe?
As with any scientific breakthrough, there are always skeptics who want to know about the negative effects. You know those TV commercials for medicine? Like, “Ask your doctor if (blank) is right for you?” And then they list 100 symptoms that sound worse than the reason for taking the medicine? Well, cannabis is not like that for most users. In a group surveyed for cannabis’ effects on chronic pain, 71% reported zero significant side effects. 6% noted a cough or throat irritation. Surely, we’ve all coughed at least once in our lives after taking a big hit.
Other Options for Depression
As scientists further explore cannabis’ effect on depression, there are other options currently on the market to alleviate symptoms. These medications can be broken down into the following categories:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)
If you prefer to stay away from foreign medication or believe in the all-natural method, there are other helpful tools to cope with depression that don’t involve taking any substance. Try the following lifestyle changes:
- Cut out extra stressors or responsibilities
- Develop a routine for activities or chores
- Consider journaling as a private outlet
- Seek out groups or online communities
- Surround yourself with loved ones
- Get moving: take a yoga class or go to the gym
Something so simple as going outside for a walk with the dogs can do wonders. And then, there’s also therapy to consider. You might be surprised at how good you feel after talking or venting to a group with similar challenges. You might even make a friend or two from class. Sometimes, talking to a bunch of strangers is easier than opening up to a friend, parent, or significant other.
So; Can Cannabis Help Depression?
Going back to our original question — can cannabis help depression — the answer is yes. It can help. It cannot cure. Science has proven that brains, both animal, and human, respond to cannabis. What’s that long word again? Oh yeah, endocannabinoids. Cannabis and mental health have more in common than ever expected, and the studies are only growing and expanding. We’ve barely reached the surface. With access to medical cannabis expanding throughout the United States and Canada, the future looks bright. The future looks healthy. The future looks green.