Studies of Medical Marijuana and Depression

The medicinal use of marijuana is not new. Histories of its health applications date back thousands of years. Ancient China, India, and Egypt were all aware of the natural healing properties of the cannabis plant.

In addition to its rich history, medical use has become more common in the US as marijuana has gained some degree of legalization in all but six states.

Though there are many uses for medical marijuana, one popular application is the treatment of depressive disorders.

Depression, specifically Major Depressive Disorder, affects more than 16 million adults in the US every year. It can be a complicated disorder to treat, even for Americans who have access to mental healthcare services.

Therapy is a long-term process, and pharmaceutical medications can cause an array of unpleasant side effects.

Because of this and many additional factors (i.e. withdrawal symptoms, contraindications with other prescription medications, cost), individuals with depression may turn to medical marijuana for relief.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is defined as, “the use of Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants to relieve symptoms and treat medical disorders and diseases.”

The healing effects of marijuana come from two key ingredients within the plant: THC tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is deemed the primary source of marijuana’s medical benefits.

However, THC (which is the more commonly known recreational and psychoactive ingredient) may also help improve appetite and reduce both anxiety and insomnia.

Is It Possible to Use Medical Marijuana for Depression?

Though research is still in its early stages, patients may benefit from using medical marijuana for depression. It may help restore endocannabinoid levels that have been reduced due to chronic stress. Marijuana use may also help stabilize moods in depressive patients. (citation needed)

In one study completed by the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression, medical professionals interviewed more than 4400 individuals with depression. The interviews asked questions about symptom management in relation to marijuana use.

Individuals who used marijuana daily reported less depressive moods, more positive effects, and less somatic complaints (unpleasant physical symptoms) than non-marijuana users.

Individuals who used weekly also reported less depressive moods, more positive effects, and less somatic complaints than non-marijuana users. Aside from their marijuana use, individuals in the study fell into comparable ranges in all depression subscales.

Though medical marijuana may not be a standalone cure for depression and depressive disorders, using it to complement current depression treatments may be useful.

When used under a physician’s care, medical marijuana may help reduce the symptoms of depression without adding unpleasant side effects.