Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, with symptoms of feeling sad, low energy, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. Now, evidence is beginning to suggest medical cannabis could be a powerful player in targeting the condition. Although clinical trials are lacking, the research that does exist is hopeful. One study from 2009 found activating the CB1 receptor produces antidepressant effects in animals, and another animal trial from 2007 found cannabis could act as an antidepressant by increasing the production of and activating serotonin in the brain. Medical marijuana may even work alongside conventional antidepressant medications for enhanced relief.
When administered in the optimal dose THC has been effective as an antidepressant in animals, but in the wrong dose it could actually make depression worse. Another study found over time, THC increased BDNF, a protein that is deficient in those who suffer from depression. Additionally, CBD could produce fast-acting antidepressant effects. One study from 2014 found CBD was effective at treating depression in animals, and two years later, a study found CBD activated the endocannabinoid system and the serotonin systems to produce antidepressant effects. Specifically, CBD was able to treat symptoms associated with depression like anhedonia, which prevents people from feeling pleasure.
Those who choose to use medical marijuana for the treatment of depression should use caution due to the fact that marijuana could exacerbate symptoms if not used in the proper dose. Some studies suggest cannabis use could increase the risk of developing depression, however the causation and correlation relationship remains unknown. Youth who use marijuana frequently seem especially at risk of developing depression. This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.