Use of cannabis in the treatment of depression
Depression is a medical condition that currently affects over 250 million people worldwide according to WHO statistics for 2020. It is also the main responsible for affecting people's professional and personal lives. In the worst cases it leads to suicide, being this the second cause of death in people between 15-29 years old.
Although there are several effective treatments for mental disorders, 76% to 85% of low-income people do not receive treatment as a result of limited income, a shortage of trained health care providers, or the social stigma associated with mental disorders.
Among the many existing treatments and therapies, medical cannabis has become an additional tool to combat depression. Some of the benefits associated with medical cannabis are its efficacy in relieving symptoms of anxiety, its effectiveness in combating pain and its potential in regulating sleep disorders.
Although research on the relationship between medical cannabis and depression is still ongoing, several researchers claim the benefits of cannabis in restoring normal functioning of the endocannabinoid system by regulating the body's homeostasis and balance.
In a study conducted by the University of New Mexico in 2020, it was found that the flower of medicinal cannabis provided in the short term, most patients antidepressant effects "although the magnitude of the effect and the extent of experience of side effects vary depending on the typical chemical properties of the plant," reads the paper.
Additionally, the study revealed that when comparing the effectiveness of medical cannabis compared to conventional pharmaceuticals used to treat the symptoms of depression (such as tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, among others), the former provides much faster relief. While the second group may take several weeks or months to produce significant relief for the patient. Furthermore, that study points out some of the possible side effects associated with traditional treatments such as anxiety, anorgasmia, demotivation and suicidal thoughts.
Finally, according to the investigator Jacob Miguel Vigil "One of the most interesting findings of this study is that the flower of cannabis with relatively high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is particularly associated with immediate reductions in the intensity of depressive sensations", including minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids".
It is necessary to consider that the results and effects depend on the variety and the physicochemistry of the organism of the user, as well as also of the dosage and of the derivative of the plant to treat this type of affection. These are very important factors that must be taken into account when applying this type of treatment in this and other pathologies, and in the case of depression it is a key point since not all organisms react in a standard way to a psychoactive.
Cannabis continues to offer us new solutions for conditions that we have been fighting during centuries. It is necessary to be able to offer more and more people these safe, natural and effective alternatives that cannabis brings to us, to continue spreading the information of the studies and to educate the medical and scientific community of the findings that verify the benefits of this natural medicine.
Marcin, A. (2018) Can Medicinal Marijuana Treat Depression? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/medical-marijuana-for-depression
Wilde, C. (2015) RIA neuroscience study points to possible use of medical marijuana for depression. University of Buffalo. http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/02/004.html
World Health Organization (2020) Depression. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression
Li, X., Diviant, J. P., Stith, S. S., Brockelman, F., Keeling, K., Hall, B., & Vigil, J. M. (2020). The Effectiveness of Cannabis Flower for Immediate Relief from Symptoms of Depression. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 93(2), 251–264.
Hasse, J. (2020) UNM Study: Cannabis Is Effective In Treating Depression, Improving Mental Health. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/javierhasse/2020/07/02/cannabis-for-depression/?sh=64eb8a986ccd