Cannabis has been used to treat continuous low mood since the 17th century. Nonetheless, when it comes to mood disorders, cannabis can be a tricky subject. Opponents argue it can cause or exacerbate the disorder, while advocates, some referencing recent research.
University of Buffalo
Research from the University of Buffalo has recently suggested activating the body’s endocannabinoid system may be helpful in the tackling continuous low mood caused by chronic stress. It has already been determined that cannabinoids – the compounds in cannabis – bind to the same receptors in the body as do the endocannabinoids created by the body. The animal studies undertaken show that chronic stress apparently reduces the production of endocannabinoids which are, among other things, useful in reducing pain and anxiety and increasing well-being (which explains why cannabis also does this). Using cannabis to restore proper (endo)cannabinoid levels in the brain may produce these results and therefore alleviate continuous low mood.
American Medical Association
An analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 also considered cannabis and continuous low mood, and the results offered an explanation for the disagreement over whether marijuana causes. The study began by stating that pharmaceutical antidepressants are only helpful to patients with severe continuous low mood. This led to research into the possibility that marijuana may be used to treat those exhibiting mild or moderate symptoms of continuous low mood. Indeed, a 2007 study found that at low levels, a synthetic form of THC (the most prevalent, psychoactive cannabinoid) could act as an antidepressant. Keep in mind that the medicinal benefits of cannabis are purely anecdotal, as further research is needed to confirm marijuana’s efficacy to ease medical symptoms.
The Effects of THC on continuous low mood
THC’s specific effect on continuous low mood is believed to be linked to serotonin (a neurotransmitter) levels, the depletion of which has been identified as a possible cause of continuous low mood: those with low levels of serotonin levels are more likely to suffer from the disorder. Both THC and prescription antidepressants raise serotonin levels. Significantly, however, at higher doses THC actually begins to actively decrease serotonin levels, which may exacerbate symptoms. This polar opposite reaction is likely the reason cannabis seems to be linked to causing continuous low mood as often as preventing it. A study conducted in 2013 found that “THC reduces the negative bias in emotional processing,” which in itself could help some mild depressive symptoms.
Cannabis vs. Antidepressants
There are definite benefits to avoiding antidepressants, especially if they are expected to fail. The drugs commonly prescribed can cause serious side effects, as well as serious withdrawal. Numerous studies involving marijuana and various conditions have shown that marijuana causes only mild and transient side effects, and while it can be habit-forming, does not cause a physical withdrawal. There is some anecdotal evidence that marijuana may be used to alleviate continuous low mood in patients battling other diseases, for which feelings of continuous low mood are a symptom of that condition. Those with multiple sclerosis and other serious illnesses have found their “mood, motivation and outlook are significantly improved” from cannabis use.