can cannabis help those suffering from depression?

Depression and Medical Cannabis

Depression has existed as a recognized illness throughout the centuries. The cause of depression has been attributed to many sources over the years including demons, black bile, a weakness of temperament, aggression, genetics, or a significant change in one’s environment. There have been as many cures suggested for depression as there have been causes and these range from beatings, exorcism, lobotomies, talk therapy, and more recently anti-depressants and psychological therapy.

One certainty that runs through any discussion concerning depression is that it is a complex disease consisting of biological, psychological and social factors. Since it is a complex problem that means that there is no straightforward simple solution to the issue. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eliminating stressors, adding medication to your routine, and psychotherapy can all assist in alleviating symptoms of depression.

Cannabis Has A Place in the Treatment of Depression

Cannabis has had its place down throughout history in relieving the suffering of those with depression. In 1621 English clergyman Robert Burton recommended its use for depression in his book “The Anatomy of Melancholy”, while doctors in India during the same period were actively using it to treat their patients’ depression.

Cannabis contains cannabinoids that mediate communication between cells. The cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has in some studies been found to have a beneficial effect on emotion-processing cerebral regions of the brain. Researchers at McGill University, in Montreal discovered that THC in low doses can serve as an antidepressant and can assist in producing serotonin; however, they also found that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to exert sedative, antidepressant and antipsychotic effects on consumers. CBD is non-psychoactive (a chemical substance that does not changes brain function and produce alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness) and therefore does not produce the effects of being “high.” Some studies suggest that CBD acts to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC while acting as an anxiolytic and antidepressant.

Cannabichromene (CBC) is the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. A recent study from the University of Mississippi identified a significant antidepressant effect of CBC in rat models, concluding that CBC and a number of other cannabinoids may “contribute to the overall mood elevating properties of cannabis.”

Cannabigerol (CBG) is responsible for many of cannabis’ medical effects as it is considered a precursor molecule since it’s acidic form is the first molecule produced by the cannabis plant; through enzymes in the plant CBG is converted into either THC, CBD, and CBC.  CBG is non-psychoactive and inhibits the uptake of a chemical in our brain called GABA which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is very widely distributed in the neurons of the cortex. GABA contributes to motor control, vision, and many other cortical functions. It also regulates anxiety. A small body of evidence suggests, CBG has muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety effects. More research is necessary to determine CBG’s true medical potential as well as how to utilize it effectively.

Cannabinol (CBN) is a non-psychoactive to mildly psychoactive molecule found in the cannabis plant that is the product of THC degradation. CBN is recognized as the main cannabinoid responsible for cannabis’ sedative effects. CBN can assist those dealing with sleep issues stemming from their depression by assisting them with obtaining adequate amount of sleep.

There is Still So Much To Learn About Cannabis and Depression

Cannabis research on humans is in its infancy. Initial results look hopeful but more studies are needed to assess the true benefits and disadvantages of cannabis as a potential therapy for people with depression. For patients wishing to use cannabis to relieve symptoms of depression utilizing a product with low amounts of THC or a product higher in or balanced with CBD may be the most effective option.

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