Cannabis for depression therapy

Initial research shows medical marijuana has great potential for treating depression. Here’s the scientific evidence we have so far

Cannabis therapy may have mental health benefits

Depression is a complex disease made up of biological, psychological and social factors. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eliminating stressors, adding medication to your routine and psychotherapy can all assist in alleviating symptoms of depression—as can medical marijuana, in some cases.

THC and depression

Cannabis contains cannabinoids that mediate communication between cells. The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical that gets you high—has in some studies been found to have a beneficial effect on emotion-processing cerebral regions of the brain. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal discovered that THC in low doses can serve as an antidepressant and can assist in producing serotonin, the feel-good hormone; however, they also found that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms.

Introducing CBD, CBC, CBG and CBN

Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to exert sedative, antidepressant and antipsychotic effects on consumers. CBD is non-psychoactive (i.e. does not produce alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness) and therefore does not create the effects of being high. Some studies suggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC while having an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect on the brain.

Cannabichromene (CBC) is the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. A recent study from the University of Mississippi identified CBC had a significant antidepressant effect in rodent models. Researchers were able to conclude that CBC, along with a number of other cannabinoids, may “contribute to the overall mood elevating properties of cannabis.”

Cannabigerol (CBG) is responsible for many of cannabis’ medical effects. It is considered a precursor molecule since its acidic form is the first molecule produced by the cannabis plant. In other words, through enzymes in the plant, CBG is converted into either THC, CBD, or CBC. CBG is non-psychoactive and inhibits the uptake of a chemical in our brain called GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is very widely distributed in the neurons of the cortex. GABA contributes to motor control, vision, and many other cortical functions—including regulating anxiety. A small body of evidence suggests CBG has muscle relaxing and anti-anxiety effects. More research is needed to determine CBG’s true medical potential, as well as how to utilize it effectively.

Cannabinol (CBN) is a non- to mildly-psychoactive molecule found in the cannabis plant that is the product of THC degradation. CBN is recognized as the main cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ sedative effects. CBN can assist those dealing with sleep issues stemming from their depression by assisting them with obtaining adequate amount of sleep.

Research is ongoing

Cannabis research on humans is still in its infancy. When it comes to treating depression, initial results look hopeful, but more studies are needed to assess the true benefits and disadvantages of cannabis as a potential therapy. For patients wishing to use cannabis to relieve symptoms of depression, using a product with low amounts of THC or a product higher in or balanced with CBD may be the most effective option.

Image: Volkan Olmez, via unsplash.com

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1 comment

  1. Peter Reynolds Reply

    A very poor attempt at setting out "...the scientific evidence we have so far".

    It would have been better not to bother than to publish something so weak and incomplete, particularly about a subject where the evidence is so mixed and often contradictory