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Can Medicinal Marijuana Treat Depression?

If you’ve been feeling sadness you can’t shake or lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed, you may be suffering from depression — and you’re not alone. Depression affects some 350 million people across the globe. This common mood disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Yet many people who have depression do not get the help they need.

There are many treatments currently available, including oral medications and different therapies. Researchers are beginning to explore medicinal marijuana as an additional treatment. Here’s more about the use of medical marijuana for depression, its benefits, and its possible side effects.

Benefits

  1. Marijuana can be used as a tool for pain management.
  2. Medicinal marijuana may relieve symptoms of anxiety.
  3. It’s also recognized as a potential treatment for nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.

A 2014 study published by the Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health highlighted pain management as a potential benefit of medical marijuana. Participants in the study reported a 64 percent decrease in pain while using marijuana. Many also experienced a decrease in anxiety and better sleep while using the drug.

A 2012 study explored cannabis as a means of controlling spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis. On average, participants had about 30 percent less spasticity while using this treatment.

Other potential benefits include relief from:

  • involuntary movements associated with movement disorders
  • nausea, particularly from chemotherapy
  • sleep disorders
  • HIV-related weight loss

Research is ongoing in these areas to determine the short- and long-term effects of use.

The evaluation of medical marijuana for depression is still in its early stages. Right now, researchers share that possible benefits include the restoration of “normal” endocannabinoid function and mood stabilization.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo have begun looking into medicinal marijuana as a possible treatment for depression caused by chronic stress. The school’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) has been focusing specifically on brain chemicals called endocannabinoids.

These are naturally produced chemical compounds. They play a role in motor control, cognition, emotions, and behavior. They also have a chemical makeup similar to that of cannabis.

The scientists have performed their studies on animals and not humans. Yet they have discovered that chronic stress may suppress the brain’s production of endocannabinoids. They found that this can lead to depression-like behavior.

Introducing cannabis into the system may help restore normal levels and function. This may ease symptoms of depression.

More studies are needed to assess the true benefits and disadvantages of marijuana as a potential therapy for people with depression.

Risks

  1. Side effects may vary depending on the method of consumption.
  2. Views are mixed on whether marijuana can lead to depression or treat depression.
  3. Marijuana use may trigger schizophrenia or psychosis in people at higher risk of these conditions. However, research isn’t conclusive.

In a group surveyed about marijuana usage for chronic pain, 71 percent didn’t report any significant side effects. Six percent reported a cough or throat irritation.

There isn’t any clear evidence to suggest that marijuana causes depression. However, there may be a link between the two. Some research suggests regular or heavy users of the drug are diagnosed with depression more often than non-smokers.

Marijuana has also been linked with other mental health conditions. If you’re at a high risk of psychosis, it’s important to know that marijuana may trigger schizophrenia or psychosis. Psychosis is a serious mental disorder characterized by a detachment from reality. Symptoms can include hallucinations and delusions.

The potential side effects of marijuana use may depend on the way you take it. Medical marijuana can be taken as a spray, pill, or patches. Research is ongoing with traditional recreational methods, such as smoking or vaporizing.

The researchers at University at Buffalo are currently trying to figure out if a certain extract, called cannabidiol, could give the mood-boosting benefits without leading to drug dependency.

More states are legalizing medical marijuana, but what does that mean for people with depression? Learn more about medical marijuana as a possible treatment. ]]>