It seems that almost weekly there are suggestions that cannabis can help with any number of physical ailments, from seizures to fibromyalgia to Parkinson’s to muscle spasms.
Now it seems that there is a growing body of evidence that cannabis may well be helpful in combatting mental issues, including depression.
The World Health Organization’s 2018 figures suggest that more than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, while the American Psychological Association estimates that more the 15 million adults in the U.S., or about 6.7 percent of the adult population suffer from depression.
To be clear, depression has many different forms, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), bipolar disorder, dysthymia (two years or more of mild depression mixed with stable periods) and major depression (constant inability to enjoy life for six or more months).
Medical cannabis studies on depression
The U.S. has been slow to fund any sort of research on depression and cannabis, but in the Netherlands, the University Medical Center Utrecht conducted a study fast tracked the use of marijuana as an aid for those suffering from depression after finding that THC can alter the response to negative images or emotions by the way it stimulates the endocannabinoid system in the brain.
Even so, the Dutch are hardly the first on the cannabis-depression bandwagon. The 17th century saw more than its share of persons suffering from depression. Four centuries ago, an Englishman, Robert Burton, published The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621. Beset by what was then described as “melancholia” Burton recommended marijuana as an antidote for the depression that plagued him.
There are classic prescriptions to deal with depression, and virtually all specialists agree that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising, sleep, a sensible diet and eliminating stress factors where possible are ideal. Antidepressants have been prescribed for decades, but alone they don’t treat depression and it can be weeks before they take effect.
Cannabis as antidepressant
A recent study out of Poland suggested that antidepressant medication prompts an increase in the body’s production of natural endocannabinoids. Well, that’s what cannabinoids do, too.
Research shows that cannabis works more quickly than antidepressants in stimulating the endocannabinoid system, mostly without the side effects that come with antidepressants – nausea, weight gain, loss of sexual desire, fatigue, insomnia and constipation.
CBD depression study
Now comes a study out of the journal Molecular Neurobiology has determined that cannabidiol (CBD) induces sustained antidepressant-like effects in mice. Could it help humans?
“Depression is a serious mental illness which affects more than 300 million people worldwide, being considered the first cause of disability in many developed and undeveloped countries,” said the study’s lead author Samia Joca of Aarhus Institute of Advance Studies and the University of Sao Paulo.
He went on to say that currently available treatments for depression, while effect, frequently take a long time to have the desired impact. He calls for more research “for better understanding of depression neurobiology” to come up with new and more effective strategies.
“In this scenario, CBD emerges as an interesting compound, since it has shown large-spectrum therapeutic potential in preclinical models and clinical trials,” Joca said. “Therefore, we became interested in evaluating CBD effect I different animal models of depression with the aim to better characterize its potential as an antidepressant drug, as well as study its underlying mechanisms.”
Clearly more research is need, but it will likely continue to be limited, even in this time of growing national acceptance of marijuana, as long as the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.
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