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Can Cannabis Help You Manage Depression?

Created by
JoshuaHolt JoshuaHolt
Added 6 December 2021

Depression affects over 264 million people in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is a severe condition that affects your ability to live your life to the fullest. 

It can make you feel hopeless and keep you from enjoying things you once enjoyed. But don’t fret — there are ways to deal with depression, just like any other medical condition.

Now, there are many treatments for depression — some legit, some pseudoscience, but cannabis has the potential to help you fight depression, provided you consume appropriate doses. 

Does cannabis actually help you manage depression, or is it just another pseudoscientific treatment? Let’s find out.

Understanding Depression

Depression

Depression is a complex mood disorder that demotivates and reduces your enthusiasm. Its symptoms include lack of motivation, insomnia, lethargy, low self-worth, inability to feel joy, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. 

While countless things can cause depression, the most common causes include abuse, conflict, genetics, isolation, loss, serious illness, stress, and substance abuse. Depression occurs when these environments (or genetics) cause disruptions in the brain’s chemical balance.

Current Treatments for Depression

Since depression occurs from biological, psychological, and social factors, there’s no straightforward cure for it. 

Most treatment plans start with minor lifestyle changes, such as eating balanced meals, eliminating stressors, exercising to boost endorphins, sleeping on time, et al.

Psychotherapy also helps you manage depression to a great extent. It enables you to recognize and express complex emotions while developing trauma-coping skills. This is an incredibly effective method to treat depression as it provides you with a safe space to discuss the issues under the guidance of a professional.

However, most people find it hard to cope with medications prescribed by physicians. They may help with most issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression, but the side effects may be too unpleasant for some. 

Lastly, some people find relief from anti-depressant drugs, like Prozac. Still, these anti-depressants are frowned upon due to their harmful side effects, including dizziness, disorientation, weight gain, etc. 

So, where does cannabis fit in?

Experts’ Word on Cannabis to Manage Depression

Cannabis strains for depression

Throughout history, various cultures have used cannabis to manage depression. For instance, in 1921, Robert Burton, an English clergyman, prescribed cannabis in his book, The Anatomy of Melancholy. At the same time, Indian ayurvedic practitioners also used cannabis to treat depression.

But in recent years, scientists have also turned their eyes to the medical benefits of cannabis. For example, some believe that cannabis can be a faster-working alternative to traditional antidepressant medicines.

Cannabis stimulates the endocannabinoid system, speeding up the development of nervous tissues with little to no side effects, which is why it is preferred over traditional medicines. 

Even cannabis users often cite that it offers peace of mind, battles stress, enhances mood and focus, and relieves anxiety. Proof? A 2006 study concluded that occasional cannabis users have fewer depressive symptoms than non-users.

Further, the researchers at McGill University found that THC in low doses can even serve as an antidepressant by boosting serotonin production in the brain. Still, the study cited that high doses can worsen depression symptoms. 

Remember how substance abuse can trigger depression? Yes, abusing cannabis can also have detrimental effects. But, just like using too much of anything is too bad, use cannabis in moderate amounts to experience positive effects. 

Meanwhile, University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands, also concluded that cannabis could manage depression and other medical issues. The study found that THC can alter the response to negative emotions by clinging to the endocannabinoid system in the brain. 

Another study linked CBD oils to improved cognitive function in people who have bipolar disorder. This suggests that cannabis can help manage even severe depression and related disorders.

And another study recognized that CBD might assist with anxiety — a condition that often accompanies depression in many patients.

Suffice it to say that cannabis does help you manage depression. Still, further research is required. Cannabis has varying effects on everyone, whether you choose CBD oils or THC extracts. Plus, depression itself is quite a complex disorder, and everyone experiences different symptoms. 

How Can Cannabis Help you Manage Depression?

Strains for depression

Using cannabis as a treatment for depression is controversial because there is a lack of research to back the claims. However, many people report that CBD is an effective tool to fight against depression.

In fact, one of the primary reasons for many users to consume cannabis is to combat depression. Even THC can be effective, provided you don't go overboard.

THC is biphasic, which means that it can work both ways. While small doses can help users tackle many issues, high doses can be detrimental, not to mention adverse psychoactive side effects.

CBD isolates that contain nothing but CBD in their pure form can help you manage anxiety and depression; however, many people stick to full-spectrum cannabis products due to the entourage effect.

Full-spectrum cannabis products offer the goodness of the entire plant rather than singling out cannabinoids. They also contain terpenes that can be effective in managing many ailments, including depression.

Terpenes are aromatic molecules used in various industries, including perfumery, aromatherapy, cosmetics, and household products. Apart from offering a unique flavor and aroma to every cannabis plant, terpenes are found in every plant in nature.

If you want to experience the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive element, using terpenes is a great idea. You can either go for full-spectrum cannabis products containing less than 0.3% THC — which is the legal limit — or you can purchase pure terpenes and incorporate them in oils, edibles, foods, drinks, and more.

Terpenes contribute to the entourage effect by working with other cannabinoids, but no cannabis-derived terpenes will get you high. Terpenes also enhance the medicinal effects of cannabis strains. 

With more than 30000 terpenes in existence today, every terpene produces unique effects. While some terpenes are best to reduce pain, inflammation and also improve your sleep cycle, other terpenes work well to manage anxiety and depression.

Best Cannabis Strains for Depression

Best strains for depression

It's important to look at the terpene profile before choosing strains to manage any problem. We will discuss terpenes in the next section. In addition, most dispensaries will explain everything you need to know about the terpene profile and the effects they have. 

Many users assume that only Sativa strains help with psychological issues but that's not entirely true. Several Indica strains like Dutch Treat, Girl Scout Cookies and Wedding Cake can also help you relax and let your hair down. Also, it's not necessary to choose only CBD strains at all times. Many of the Sativa strains mentioned above contain high amounts of THC. The only thing that matters is the dosage. As long as you consume the right amounts and don't go overboard, THC can be as valuable as CBD. 

Best Terpenes for Depression

Here's a list of terpenes that can help you to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.

Myrcene

Myrcene

Myrcene — a dominant terpene found in most cannabis strains amounting to more than 60% of the terpene profile, can increase the blood-brain barrier that enhances the penetrating abilities of other cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Simply put, incorporating Myrcene in your products can increase the abilities of other components. Myrcene is also found in mangoes which explains why many cannabis strains taste and smell like raw mangoes.

Limonene

Limonene

As the name implies, limonene smells like an exotic combination of lemons and oranges. However, several studies have shown that limonene exhibits antidepressant effects. Therefore, strains like Sour Diesel, Wedding Cake, Lemon OG, and Jack Herer can uplift your senses and generally make you feel better.

Pinene

Pinene

Both terpene varieties — alpha and beta-pinene — are found in many cannabis plants and pine trees. Pinene makes you remember green forests, thanks to its heavy pine fragrance. Most medications used to treat depression are SSRIs or serotonin reuptake inhibitors that prevent the neurons from absorbing too much serotonin, so there's more serotonin available for nerve cells to communicate with each other. Pinene functions similarly by interacting with serotonin receptors. Cannabis strains high in pinene include Jack Herer, Blue Dream, OG Kush, Strawberry Cough, and many more.

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is the only terpene that interacts with the body's endocannabinoid receptors. In other words, it behaves like a cannabinoid. Found in herbs like cloves, pepper, basil, and many cannabis plants, caryophyllene holds promise as an effective antidepressant. Strains high in caryophyllene include Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, Chemdog, and more.

In conclusion, make sure you check out the terpene profile of the cannabis strain you purchase for maximum benefits.

Cannabis’ Effect on The Brain

As mentioned earlier, scientists have found cannabis stimulates the endocannabinoid system. ECS is a network of receptors that maintain several vital functions of the body. Plus, it repairs the nervous tissues, making them heal faster. These effects, in turn, help fight stress and anxiety related to depression.

Additionally, high CBD strains trigger rapid effects similar to antidepressants — they attach themselves to serotonin receptors to produce the impact that manages depression. 

On the other hand, low levels of THC can help manage the symptoms of depression. But high levels of THC can worsen the symptoms. 

Thus, if you want to use cannabis to manage depression, CBD strains are the preferred option as they have a ton of benefits without causing any psychoactive effects, aka, getting you high.

Summary: Can Cannabis Help You Manage Depression?

If you have been diagnosed with depression and seek treatments beyond prescriptions like antidepressants that cause unpleasant side effects, you can opt for cannabis to manage depression. 

Medical marijuana, particularly CBD strains, can significantly help reduce your depression symptoms. 

That said, we recommend you consult a doctor or psychiatrist before using any kind of cannabis product to treat depression symptoms. 

Above everything else, remember that help is always available to help you manage depression. Refer to this link to reach out to your region’s helpline and talk to a professional.

Cannabis is revolutionizing the medical industry with its numerous benefits for medical conditions, including depression, and we are quite excited to see where medical cannabis will take us in the future.

 






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