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Can Cannabis help manage Depression ?

Can Cannabis help manage Depression ?

Depression is a global problem, with over 300 million people being affected worldwide. The traditional treatments for depression, like antidepressants, have various limitations, including side effects and ineffectiveness for some people.

Depression is a global problem, with over 300 million people being affected worldwide. The traditional treatments for depression, like antidepressants, have various limitations, including side effects and ineffectiveness for some people.


Tuesday, July 18, 2023


min read

Depression: A Global Concern

Depression is a debilitating mental health condition that affects well over 300 million individuals globally, as per the statistics provided by the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. In the United States, up to 4% of the population, or nearly 9 million people, are affected by generalized anxiety disorder. The intersection of depression and anxiety is a harsh reality for many, with traditional antidepressants often failing to provide relief to all.

"Depression and anxiety disorders are highly prevalent," says Erin L. Martin, a Ph.D. candidate at the Medical University of South Carolina. "Traditional antidepressants may effectively treat these disorders in a lot of people, but they do not work for everyone and can have unpleasant side effects."

Traditional Treatment for Depression

Depression and anxiety disorders are traditionally treated with antidepressants. However, these medicines are not effective for everyone and can have undesirable side effects. This has led many individuals to seek alternative treatments, one of which is medical cannabis.

Medical Cannabis: An Alternative?

Cannabis, specifically its components THC and CBD, is being explored as a potential alternative to traditional antidepressants. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that provides the "high," while CBD does not have psychoactive properties but contributes to the pharmacological actions of the drug. Despite the anecdotal evidence supporting the use of cannabis for depression and anxiety, scientific evidence remains inconclusive.

"We conducted this study to determine if people that used medicinal cannabis products to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression reported improvement in these symptoms, as well as in other important areas like sleep and quality of life, relative to people that did not use medicinal cannabis," explains Martin.

Science Behind Cannabis and Depression

To better understand the efficacy of cannabis in treating depression, researchers conducted a study that was published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The study involved participants who reported having depression, anxiety, or both. The participants were assessed over a period of three years, completing evaluations on their cannabis use, anxiety, depression, recent pain, quality of life, and sleep quality.

"Medicinal cannabis products, especially products high in CBD, may help to treat symptoms of depression, improve sleep, and increase quality of life," says Martin.

Observing the Effects of Cannabis

The results of the study revealed that participants who used cannabis, particularly CBD-rich products, reported lower levels of depression than nonusers. Cannabis users also reported a higher quality of life and better sleep in the past month. However, anxiety levels did not differ between cannabis users and nonusers at the onset of the study.

"There is also some evidence that medicinal cannabis may alleviate symptoms of anxiety, particularly if administered over an extended period of time, but this is less clear from our results and warrants further study," Martin adds.

Study Limitations and Future Research

Despite the promising results, the study had several limitations, such as a reliance on self-reporting. These results could also be influenced by a placebo effect or by the likelihood of participants completing the study if they found medicinal cannabis products effective in treating their symptoms.

"Randomized, placebo-controlled trials on the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of medicinal cannabis are needed," Martin emphasizes. "Furthermore, it is still unknown how people should be dosing medicinal cannabis products in order to achieve the best effect. This should also be explored in future research."

Legal Implications of Cannabis Use

While the use of medical cannabis is legal in some states and territories, it remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S if the THC content is more than 0.3%. The lack of research evidence to support marijuana as a treatment for depression is a significant factor in this legality issue.

Risks Associated with Cannabis

Although cannabis may have some antidepressant properties, there are several risks associated with its use. These include the risk of developing amotivational syndrome (characterized by apathy and social withdrawal), the risk of triggering other mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and the risk of dependence and addiction.

Treatments Beyond Cannabis

While the therapeutic potential of cannabis for depression is being explored, it's important to remember that there are already evidence-based, effective treatments for depression available. These treatments include psychotherapy and antidepressants, which can be used individually or in combination.

"If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, don't rely on CBD or marijuana for relief. Talk to a healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can assess your symptoms, diagnose, and provide treatment recommendations," advises Martin.


While the potential of cannabis for treating depression is an exciting prospect, it's important to remember that the evidence for its effectiveness is still inconclusive. Further research, including randomized, placebo-controlled trials, is needed to fully understand the impact of cannabis on depression and anxiety. In the meantime, individuals experiencing symptoms of depression should consult a healthcare provider or mental health professional for treatment advice.

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