Cannabis and Depression: What You Need to Know
Local pharmacies dispense thousands of prescriptions for scores of medications for clinical depression. Despite the advertising, none of these pharmaceuticals will cure depression. Like cannabis, they offer some relief from symptoms. Depending on the individual’s unique configuration of symptoms, one medication may prove more effective than another.
Depression occurs at the nexus of physical, social, and genetic factors. Because the factors impinge uniquely, no single remedy can treat fully or effectively without diagnosis and comprehensive therapy. Cannabis makes a significant contribution to complete treatment, but it does not cure depression. Moreover, there are things you need to know about cannabis and depression before you self-medicate.
What is depression?
The American Psychiatric Association explains, “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.”
You may see depression in those who:
Feel sad and low
Lose interest in their usual activities
Sudden weight loss or gain without dieting
Chronic fatigue or listlessness
Sense of guilt or worthlessness
Everyone has low moments, but if such symptoms persist for two weeks, you should see a doctor. These patterns may arise from physical problems, including vitamin deficiency, thyroid conditions, or other diagnosed conditions. The medications for such ailments may relieve the related depression.
Once a diagnostician has ruled out an illness, you need counseling on the options. For instance, depression may relate to the loss of employment. A qualified counselor may prescribe medications proven to help patients through this stage of stress and anxiety.
A medical specialist may discover the depression occurs in the context of a history of alcoholism or addiction. Removing these contributors may take psychiatric advice or therapeutic rehabilitation.
Such therapy may succeed at removing patients from the situation and context contributing to their depression. However, some 40 percent of those suffering from depression have inherited an inclination to dependency.
So, depression is more than sadness or grief. It represents a complex of brain, body, and contextual influences, which may or may not include cannabis.
How does cannabis work?
A 2020 study out of the University Of New Mexico found, “cannabis flower may be effective in providing immediate relief for the symptoms of depression – a condition affecting roughly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., and often leading to other ailments like cancer, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic pain.”
The thousands of respondents in the study reported measurable improvement in happiness, optimism, and peacefulness. Such self-reporting does not make for good or final science. These are not peer-reviewed, blind-study results.
Nonetheless, in most cases of depression, quick and lasting relief from symptoms may allow patients to advance to more effective and lasting therapies. Self-medication with cannabis can serve as a bridge to more focused care in most cases. However, in many other cases, cannabis therapy alone may only exacerbate the problem.
Here is how it works. The THC in cannabis sends users on three possible paths:
THC binds with CB1 and CB2 neuroreceptors. Mild-to-moderate levels of THC will strengthen the flow of neurotransmission. This influence relieves the brain and body to resist other antagonists.
Moderate levels of THC lift mood and clarify focus inviting focused and creative work.
High THC potency will agitate neurotransmitters. The excitement will distract users from their sadness and despair. This distraction can, for example, reduce the emotional pain that burdens those with PTSD.
Another path depends on the THC: CBD ratio. Suitably balanced for individual needs, the CBD potency can offset the adverse effects of THC.
Cannabis strains for depression –
Here are five cannabis strains recommended for cannabis therapy. This list purposefully avoids those with high THC potency because those strains can put many readers at risk.
Strain: Sativa dominant hybrid (95% Sativa / 5% Indica) with 16% - 21% THC: 1% CBD
Genetics: Unknown Jamaican source favored by Bob Marley
Reputation: Lamb’s Bread delivers a fast mood lift, a creative focus that will let you function in the daytime. It has a cheesy taste and aroma, which is nothing to brag about. However, the presence of 1% CBD helps modulate the THC’s excitement. This strain should alleviate depression and anxiety as well as migraines and glaucoma.
Strain: Sativa-dominant hybrid with 23% THC: 1% CBN
Genetics: Heritage is unclear, but it appears to be Haze and a cross of Northern Lights #5 and Shiva Skunk.
Reputation: The 23% THC delivers its punch quickly in the form of a happy, energetic, and creative euphoria. It will support users throughout the day, escaping depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. This legendary strain is also known for its earthy and piney fragrance and flavors.
Strain: Sativa-dominant hybrid (70% Sativa / 30% Indica) testing at 27% THC
Genetics: Purple Punch crossed with Clementine
Reputation: Despite the THC potency, Mimosa is neither paralyzing nor psychotic. It will deliver an energetic euphoria when used in the morning. Mimosa will affect the body more than the brain with a clarity that leaves you focused and positive throughout the day. The mixed tropical citrus and berry experience will relieve depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, migraines, and more.
Strain: Indica-dominant hybrid (60% Indica / 40% Sativa) with 25% THC
Genetics: Cherry Pie mixed with Girl Scout Cookies
Reputation: Wedding Cake’s parents produce its high THC content. However, they also contribute to the resulting calm and peace. Sugar-sweet, Wedding Cake soothes the brain and body, starting with the nervous system. This strain can cloud your focus and slow your days while it relieves depression-related conditions like fibromyalgia and lupus.
Strain: Balanced hybrid (50% Sativa /50% Indica) with 14% to 20% THC
Genetics: Alien Cookies crossed with Colombian X Starfighter)
Reputation: MAC balances an early creative euphoria with a later deep-body relaxation. Earthy, spicey, and sour, Miracle Alien Cookies treats you best in the evening. It should help you with the loss of appetite and sleep. However, the full-bodied relaxation will chase away depression, stress, and mood swings.
A word of caution!
Depression can be debilitating. People should not treat it casually or without professional diagnosis and guided therapy. Such therapy may include guarded use of cannabis, but self-medication and use with alcohol risks damage to the brain and body. Users should proceed with caution!