In the United States, the legalization of marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes is a growing trend. Because of this, using marijuana for depression is gaining in popularity as an alternative treatment over traditional prescription medication.
And as you’ll know from the media, depression and anxiety disorders are prevalent, so if it’s true marijuana helps, medical marijuana could be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Let’s explore medical marijuana for depression, noting its benefits and considering its risks.
What is Depression?
Depression is one of the most debilitating conditions, affecting more than 300 million people globally.
It involves a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Commonly accompanied by anxiety, depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. It’s more than just a bout of the blues.
Depression can have a lasting effect on your health, social life, ability to work, and overall wellbeing.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression can present itself once as a single episode in your lifetime or many times. People with clinical depression can see it come and go, experiencing multiple episodes over the course of years.
Your symptoms can vary but typically you may experience some of these for most of the day, nearly every day:
- Sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, and hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Sleep disturbances
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or the opposite, increased appetite and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation, restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- A feeling of worthlessness, guilt, or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
It’s understandable you would be thinking about the effectiveness of marijuana for depression. So let’s look at marijuana in more detail.
A Quick Breakdown of Marijuana
The chemicals in marijuana can be divided into two main categories:
- cannabidiol (CBD) and
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD and THC are the most common cannabinoids. Both CBD and THC act on cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Each acts differently in the body, however, and may have different effects on depression.
For example, THC is responsible for the feelings of euphoria, or the “high” that a person experiences while using cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, does not have these effects.
Cannabis can contain one or a combination of the two cannabinoids – in various grades and varying amounts.
Medicinal cannabis, for example, has a high CBD/low THC ratio. This means that medical marijuana can help users experience the positive effects of CBD without experiencing the “high” of THC.
How is Medical Marijuana Legal?
Medical marijuana contains lower THC and higher CBD levels than recreational marijuana. Its legality varies:
Hemp-derived products with less than 0.3% THC are federally legal.
Hemp-derived products with more than 0.3% THC fall under the legal definition of marijuana – federally illegal, but legal under some state laws.
How Marijuana Can Help with Depression
The key is serotonin. Serotonin impacts a range of bodily functions, such as one’s emotional state and feelings of wellbeing or happiness.
Depression occurs when the body’s serotonin levels become imbalanced. Low serotonin in the body is thought to be the culprit of the onset of depression.
Rather than directly boosting serotonin levels, CBD may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s present in your system. CBD appears to positively interact with serotonin receptors in the brain, producing both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
Is Marijuana a Cure for Depression?
With the growing trend to use marijuana for medical conditions, it’s reasonable to wonder, “What can cannabinoids cure?”
Let’s be clear here. The medical community has yet to include the word “cure” regarding cannabis use for any medical condition, including depression.
However, although inconclusive, recent studies are promising and show that the use of medical marijuana can lessen and alleviate some of the symptoms of depression.
Here are some significant ways that cannabis use can positively impact your quality of life and work to help relieve your depression:
- Improves sleep
- Alleviates anxiety
- Lessens chronic pain
- Promotes anti-stress effects
The Benefits of Using Marijuana to Treat Depression
Traditional antidepressant medication can effectively help treat depression and anxiety in many people, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Besides, these medications can take weeks to start working, while CBD has been shown to have a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect.
Additionally, prescribed antidepressants (SSRIs) can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects, including,
- Sexual dysfunction
- Mood swings
CBD is not known to be accompanied by any of these negative effects.
The Risks of Using Marijuana to Treat Depression
While medical marijuana is generally safe, it might not be right for everyone. There are risks involved and things to consider before using medical marijuana for depression.
1 Some people may be more sensitive to CBD and experience diarrhea, fatigue, or changes in weight or appetite.
2 Although the chances are low, medical marijuana may interact with medications. However, you should never stop taking prescribed medication, especially antidepressants, without talking to your healthcare provider first.
3 If the ratio of THC to CBD is too high, you can increase the chance of experiencing feelings of anxiety, fear, distrust, panic, or paranoia.
Research Continues to Explore Marijuana for Depression
A growing body of research continues to investigate cannabinoid science. There’s a lot of work to be done in studying the effects of using marijuana for depression, but so far, the research in the field looks promising.
Obtaining Medical Marijuana in Florida
Listed below are the qualifications you must meet before receiving medical marijuana treatment in Florida.
- Be a permanent or seasonal Florida resident
- Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition (see below) by a qualified physician
- Be entered into the medical marijuana user registry
- Obtain a medical marijuana use registry identification card
There are qualifying medical conditions for a Florida medical marijuana card – and, in addition to named conditions, this applies:
According to Senate Bill 8A, medical marijuana may be used for the treatment of
- other “diagnosable, debilitating conditions of like, kind, or class” (such as anxiety, depression, and migraines)
- terminal conditions (diagnosed by a physician other than the physician issuing certification)
- chronic non-malignant pain (defined as pain caused by a qualifying medical condition that persists beyond the usual course of that condition)
Help with Depression Starts with a Trusted Healthcare Provider
If you suffer from depression, Emerald Medical can be your beacon of hope. Talk with one of our experienced healthcare providers to learn more about how medical marijuana might be able to help you. Together, we can work through your depression and improve your quality of life. Make an appointment today!