The brain is an awesome thing. Marvelously complex, it still keeps many secrets. Your skull holds about 3 pounds or 2% of the entire body’s weight. It has sections and lobes, each of which serves different purposes.
It holds blood, nerves, and gray matter. But, what connecting the brain and the rest of your body functions is its job in neurotransmission. And, to understand how cannabis helps manage depression, you must picture how the neurotransmission works.
How depression works
There is a reciprocal relationship between the brain and the central nervous system. It’s difficult to understand because the interconnection of neurons is unseen and difficult to illustrate. But, you can imagine a neuron as having three parts, the body, axon, and dendrites. Axons are thin strings that pass electric messages to the next neuro. Dendrites are similar threads that receive those messages on the next neuron cell. You feel great when the neurotransmission is working correctly.
To make it a little more difficult, you see, the axon sends a neurotransmitter to the dendrite at the synapse, the tiny space between the neurons. Dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine are all neurotransmitters. And, if the receiver likes the neurotransmitter, the receptors function in an orderly way. And, you feel good.
Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. and Kathryn Patricelli, MA, writing for Gracepoint Wellness, note, “In music, it's not just the notes that make up a melody. It is also the spaces or rests between the notes that make each note stand out and be distinct.” There must be a tiny bit of downtime between the synapses for the messages to make any sense.
The receptors in the dendrites have to reset themselves and get ready for the next message.” After this reuptake, “The neurotransmitters are then repackaged and reused the next time a message needs to be sent across the synapse.” Anything that interferes with this reuptake procedure causes you problems.
Serotonin controls aggression, appetite, mood, sexual behavior, and sleep. A decrease in serotonin will cause depression and even suicidal thoughts. Serotonin is made in the brain, but it depends on resources in the body’s tryptophan hydroxylase. Big Pharma recommends SSRIs or Select Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors to restore the neurochemistry.
8 reasons cannabis is great for depression
The brain and body are also governed by a complex endocannabinoid system which emulates the system already described. The brain produces endocannabinoids that enjoy balance, too. But, when internal and external stresses weaken them, they look to bind with the cannabinoids present in cannabis.
- Sativa strains or sativa-dominant hybrids apparently work better than Indica. But, various patients find a balance that serves them well. While chronic depression presents serious threats, some depression is situational. Circumstances like family pressures, job stress, or unemployment can launch a burdensome but temporary depression.
- Cannabis research has shown it plays a role in neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells. And, the cannabis CBD has proven helpful in replenishing those cells killed off by alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and opiates.
- CBD creates antidepressant effects like imipramine. Unlike CBD, according to Drugs.com, imipramine has proven to increase “the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive dis order (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.”
- Preclinical research shows endocannabinoid facilitated neurotransmission produces antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
- Charles Ankner, writing on LinkedIn, reports on studies that show how cannabinoids prevent and forestall Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms. It indicates that they reduce the buildup of peptides and proteins indicative of Alzheimer’s. They also fight inflammation by reducing production of inflammatory molecules and cytokines.
- Despite the DEA position on cannabis/marijuana, the U.S. Patent Office has protected the use of cannabinoids for their anti-oxidant and neuroprotective powers. Such patents permit manufacturers to create cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.
- The popular SSRIs have a litany of negative side-effects, including headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, insomnia, sexual problems, and weight loss. Some patients also suffer dizziness, hypertension, liver damage, and mood swings. They take weeks to benefit users, and they leave patients with withdrawal symptoms.
- R.K. Das and colleagues reported their research in The Journal of Psychopharmacology that CBD helps promotes the extinction of learned fear responses making those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder good candidates for therapy involving CBD.
Don’t make depression worse!
The stress, emotional, physical, and emotional problems that come with depression are caused by any one or combination of causes:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can increase the vulnerability to clinical depression
- Pharmaceutical medications can increase the risk
- Personal conflicts at work, among friends, or with family members
- Grief following the death of a loved one can become chronic.
- Genetics predispose some to psychiatric problems.
- Live changing events like divorce, moving to a new town, or job loss.
- Serious and life-threatening disease will trigger deep depression.
- Substance abuse may be an attempt to self-medicate depression symptoms.
Severe depression warrants medical advice and oversight. There’s too much misinformation out there, and your doctor needs to diagnose and determine your best care in terms of your medical history, your family background, and your other medications. The availability of cannabis, marijuana, and cannabis-derived products should not cloud your common sense.Cannabis, however, has treated users suffering from depression and anxiety for centuries. Perhaps, the success is due to its uplifting benefits, its relaxation qualities, or its easy use. But, it also produces positive effects, provides no alternative threats, and only minor side-effects like dry mouth.
Unfortunately, U.S. quality research is short-circuited by DEA policy on the substance. Without a revision in the department’s thinking, research is pretty much limited to rats. Let your legislator know how you feel about that!