Depression

August 2022

Depression is a widespread mental illness that affects slightly less than 1 in 5 adults in the country. Across Europe, about 25% of the population suffers from depression or anxiety. Some people only suffer from occasional depressive episodes. Others suffer from clinical depression and see the quality of their lives significantly reduced as a result. Depression costs the economy billions of dollars annually and robs people of their happiness.

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Conventional treatment methods for the condition consist of a series of drugs that sometimes help, but in other cases make the situation worse. Interestingly enough, some people with depression are turning to cannabis. Scientists are exploring its potential in various conditions, but can it help with depression?

What Is Depression And How Does It Arise?

Everyone goes through a sad period from time to time. Stress, anxiety and emotional events sometimes result in us feeling dejected. Eventually that negative feeling melts away and we can get on with our lives. Depression, however, is more than dejection. It is a chronic mood disorder that can sometimes last for months, but also for years. People suffering from it are unable to “break through” that feeling.

Possible Triggers For Depression

Triggers are difficult to pinpoint. The disorder can arise after shocking events, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness or giving birth. For other people, it involves an accumulation of events that send them into depression. The risk is greater when individuals experiment with hard drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication.

Depression can also come out of the blue. In that case, heredity and personality may play a role. In this case, depression can arise from a deficiency of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. Research has also shown that the hippocampus – a part of the brain involved with memory and learning – is sometimes smaller for depressed people. This may be due to stress, which inhibits the production of new neurons.

General Symptoms

Depression has many manifestations. Sometimes the symptoms are not too severe, in other cases they are. The general symptoms of depression are:

  • Persistent dejection or sadness
  • Lack of motivation and apathy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Binge eating or loss of appetite
  • Persistent aches and pains
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of sadness and crying
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of zest for life
  • Suicidal thoughts

Conventional Treatments

Depression can be treated in several ways. In doing so, each treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Doctors often recommend conservative treatments in mild to moderate cases for which they suggest, for example, exercising more to improve your mood. Interestingly, aerobics may release endocannabinoids that cause a “runner’s high”. Often people suffering from depression also participate in cognitive behavioral therapy to change thought patterns and behaviors.

Treatment providers often prescribe antidepressants for people who have moderate to severe depression. There are more than 30 different antidepressants on the market, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

SSRIs increase the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. They inhibit the reuptake of this substance into the presynaptic cell, making more serotonin available. These drugs work for some people to stabilize moods, but also have a long list of side effects, including nausea, vomiting, nervousness, dizziness, sexual problems, agitation and confusion.

These options help some people cope with and even get rid of their depression, but that’s not true for everyone. Today, many people are therefore also choosing other options, including cannabis.

Cannabis, Depression And Or Endocannabinoid System 

Can Cannabis help against depression?

If you smoke cannabis at all, you know the kind of feeling it can give you. Sometimes, for example, smoking a bong can induce a laughing rush. Some strains, on the other hand, elicit an intoxicating buzz that lasts for hours, while others are milder and more suitable for the evening. But perhaps there have also been times when smoking weed has caused feelings of anxiety or even panic in you. Since cannabis can have different effects on everyone, it doesn’t necessarily improve your mood.

The effect of cannabis on depression is being widely researched. But before we dive into the studies, it’s important to clarify a few things. Since different strains contain different concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, they can have widely varying effects on mood.

To complicate matters further; each cannabis strain contains a different concentration of these compounds. For example, there are strains with a high THC content, the cannabinoid responsible for the high; others have a high CBD content, which does not induce a high. In addition, there are more than 100 cannabinoids and 100 terpenes, each of which has its own effects. Therefore, the question “Does cannabis affect depression?” is inadequate. Rather, it is a question of what the effects of individual compounds are and how they work in synergy.

What Studies Say About The Matter

Unfortunately, few comprehensive studies have been conducted in this area. Therefore, we do not currently know much about these complex mechanisms. However, science does now know more about how THC and CBD can affect mood.

When looking at the effects of these compounds on the brain, it’s helpful to know what the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is. “Endo” means internal; “cannabinoid” refers to the substances that affect the receptors of the ECS. Our endocannabinoid system consists of a series of receptors located on various types of cells throughout our bodies. Science has now confirmed the existence of two of these receptors – CB1 and CB2.

The ECS also consists of special neurotransmitters that bind to these receptors and modulate the system. These compounds are called endocannabinoids; namely, anandamide and 2-AG. Substances in the cannabis plant are able to affect the same receptors because they have the same form. Cannabinoids in cannabis – and other plant species – are called phytocannabinoids.

Both anandamide and 2-AG play an important role in the dopaminergic system and therefore mood. Both compounds bind to the CB1 receptors on certain neurons and stimulate the release of dopamine.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of the most important substances in modern marijuana strains. The molecule has psychotropic effects by binding to CB1 receptors in the central nervous system. In doing so, the cannabinoid potentially affects mood in the short term through the release of dopaminergic cells.

Strainprint App In Aid Of Cannabis Research

A published research examined whether cannabis had an effect on depression, anxiety and stress, and the scientists collected data through the app Strainprint to assess the effects of certain strains.

However, THC was not the only cannabinoid they examined. CBD was also administered. The researchers found that CBD-rich strains with little THC produced the greatest changes in mood. In contrast, strains high in THC and low in CBD seemed to have relaxing effects.

This could possibly be due to CBD’s interaction with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates the mood. It is believed that CBD binds to the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A, and CBD does not.

CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors and therefore does not affect dopaminergic neurons in the same way as THC. Therefore CBD is known to be an indirect agonist of CB1 receptors. This ultimately means that CBD can increase levels of anandamide by inhibiting an enzyme that degrades this endocannabinoid. Increased concentrations of anandamide then bind to CB1 receptors and thus have their own effect on mood. Studies in the area of cannabis and depression look very promising. However, it’s not all rsunshine.

Cannabis And Depression: A Complex Relationship

While acute exposure to THC may promote dopamine release, chronic exposure may lead to blunting of the dopaminergic system, thus long-term cannabis use may reduce the brain’s response to dopamine and may result in diminished feelings of reward and motivation.

But, as mentioned, marijuana is more than just THC. The effects of CBD on mood are also being studied. In addition, scientists have yet to investigate more than a hundred other cannabinoids in this area. Therefore, it is best to discuss this topic with your doctor.

But, if you want to get a general idea of which strains are best for combating a depression, you can take a look at the following list:

Depression | Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main triggers for depression?

This is hard to say as it is different for everyone.

Is it THC or CBD that helps against depression?

CBD rich strains with just a little THC seem to be most effective.

Can you use cannabis against chronic depression?

Yes, but be careful as this can also create immunity.

Does cannabis really help against depression?

For some it does and for others it doesn’t, because everybody responds differently to cannabis.

Which cannabis strain is used most against depression?

That’s hard to say as there are so many strains and every user has different preferences.