Increased Cannabis Use As Alternative Treatment For Depression
Thu, April 22, 2021

Increased Cannabis Use As Alternative Treatment For Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders around the world, affecting more than 264 million people. It is also the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease / Photo by: Evgeny Atamanenko via 123RF

 

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders around the world, affecting more than 264 million people. It is also the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. 

 

Understanding Depression 

Depression is a mood disorder that can cause a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in the things that the person usually feels excited about. It affects how they feel, think, and behave and it can also lead to different emotional and physical problems. A person with a major depressive disorder or clinical depression can have trouble doing and finishing normal day-to-day activities and it can often feel as life is worthless and does not have any meaning. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center based in Rochester, Minnesota, focused on integrated clinical practice, education, and research, depression is different from sadness because it can be triggered by nothing at all and it can persist for more than two weeks. It will require long-term treatment and most people with diagnosed depression feel better with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Moreover, typical symptoms of depression may include feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, sudden angry outbursts or irritability over small matters, loss of interest in normal activities including hobbies and sports, tiredness and lack of energy, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite or sudden weight gain, and feelings of intense anxiety. 

The Link Between Cannabis and Depression

In a study published in 2014 in the Hawaii Journal of Medicine and Public Health, it was claimed that pain management can be a potential benefit of medical marijuana. In the study, participants reported a 64% decrease in pain while using medical marijuana and they also reported a decrease in anxiety levels and better sleep. However, the evaluation of medical marijuana for depression is still in its early stages. Currently, researchers believe that the possible cannabis benefit includes the restoration of endocannabinoid function and mood stabilization. 

As reported on Healthline, a medical and academic news website, scientists from the University of Buffalo have started to look into medical marijuana as a possible treatment or medication for depression that is caused specifically by chronic stress. The research team has been focusing on the brain chemical called endocannabinoids, which are naturally produced chemical compounds and play a significant role in motor control, cognition, emotion regulation, and behavior. The scientists have claimed that introducing cannabis into the system may help restore the normal levels and function of brain chemicals that can ease the symptoms of depression. 

Increased use of cannabis use for individuals with depression 

New research published in the journal Addiction claims that the prevalence of cannabis or marijuana use in the United States among people living with depression has dramatically increased from 2005 to 2017. According to Dr. Renee Goodwin of Columbia University and the City University of New York, there is a growing perception that cannabis use can help people with depression and indeed, during the timeframe mentioned, there was an increase in cannabis use among those with the condition. 

The people with depression who used cannabis for 30 days did not present any risk associated with the regular use of cannabis. Meanwhile, according to the study, young adults aged 18 to 25 appear to be more vulnerable to the use of cannabis. In 2017, the prevalence of daily cannabis use in those with depression was 6.7% and among those without depression, it was 2.9%. There is a clear indication that people with depression are starting to seek and use alternative treatment, perhaps coinciding with their medication and psychotherapy. However, whether or not people with depression are substituting their medication and therapy for medical marijuana is unclear. 

On the other hand, there are some known risks of using medical marijuana heavily to the point of abusing it. Marijuana has been linked with mental health conditions such as psychosis. If a person is at a high risk of psychosis, it can trigger schizophrenia, which is a serious mental disorder that makes the person detach from reality. 

New research published in the journal Addiction claims that the prevalence of cannabis or marijuana use in the United States among people living with depression has dramatically increased from 2005 to 2017 / Photo by: Roxana Gonzalez Leyva via 123RF

 

Other treatments for depression 

Typical treatments for depression are a combination of antidepressants and therapy. There are different kinds of antidepressants that are suited for different people. The most common ones are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which are considered safer and generally cause fewer side effects. It is very important to find the right medication because the efficiency of the medication really depends on the person’s body chemistry and genetics. Some people try several medications or a combination of medications before finding the one that works for them. 

The other type of treatment for depression is psychotherapy, otherwise known as talk therapy or psychological therapy. There are also different forms of psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. The aim of psychotherapy is to adjust to the crisis that the patient is having, identify negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy and positive ones, explore personal relationships and develop positive interactions, find better ways to cope and solve problems, and learn to develop the ability to tolerate and accept distress. 

Typical treatments for depression are a combination of antidepressants and therapy. There are different kinds of antidepressants that are suited for different people / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123RF