Cannabinoids and Depression
Researchers Believe Cannabinoids May Be the Key to Controlling Depression
There is currently a lot of interests in how cannabinoids can affect mood disorders. Humans have used cannabis since ancient times to treat mood and physical health conditions. While there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence to suggest that marijuana and industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids can moderate mood disorders, the actual scientific research is still in its infancy.
Several preliminary studies have been done and are underway to investigate how phytocannabinoids derived fromindustrial hemp can potentially help. The evidence thus far suggests that cannabinoids may be a very viable option for treating patients suffering from psychological disorders, including depression.
At least 350 million persons around the world are affected by depression. Research has shown that depression is a major cause of disability globally. Conventional treatments, such as anti-depressants and therapy, do not always work. Many patients will discontinue medications because of negative side effects. Comparatively, cannabinoids could offer a safer alternative to conventional medications. Not only will they have very little to no side effects, but they will also have other health benefits because of the regulatory effects cannabinoids have on the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Our experience associates cannabis with negative counterculture; getting high. But in reality, a cannabinoid is a chemical compound, and when it is derived from industrial hemp, it contains less than .3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive part of cannabis. At that amount, it can not get someone “high.”
Mammals have a network of cannabinoid receptors in what is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our naturally occurring endocannabinoids regulate things like motor control, cognition, emotions, and behavior. Phytocannabinoids, like those abundantly and naturally existing in industrial hemp, are able to affect the ECS the same as endocannabinoids. In essence, we are designed to receive cannabinoids.
An Imbalance of Endocannabinoids Causes Depression
Researchers are of the view that there is a correlation between restoring the ECS to optimal cannabinoid function and stabilization of mood.
Research is ongoing at the University at Buffalo on the efficacy of medical marijuana in the treatment of depression caused by stress. The research is focused on endocannabinoids and has shown that chronic stress may inhibit the production of endocannabinoids by the brain. This according to the study, may lead to depression-like behavior. Exposing the system to cannabinoids may facilitate the restoration of optimal function, thus easing depression symptoms.
To delve a little more into the science ...
Cannabinoids influence mood perceptions and exert anti-depressant action by acting as an agonist in central CB1 receptors. 5-HT is believed to be responsible for mood control and implicated in antidepressant-like actions. Research evidence has pointed out the action of cannabidiol (CBD) in the serotonin (5-HT) system and related neurons. Administration of CB1R agonists such as phytocannabinoids into the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain has resulted in enhanced 5-HT neuronal activity and CB1R-dependent antidepressant-like effects in the experimental animals. This study clearly shows the dose-dependent antidepressant benefit of CBD, which can be particularly useful for the treatment of mood disorders.
Almost 80% of patients who have an impaired health-related quality of life suffer from co-existing depression and pain. This includes patients with chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain conditions. Pharmacological treatments aimed at treating the pain or depression do not work for the majority of these patients, making this comorbidity disorder a heavy drain on individuals and society, as well.
Researchers believe that cannabinoids could possibly be the solution to this problem that has a high mortality rate. The ECS re-regulating properties of cannabinoids affect both pain and mood. They have anti-inflammatory and analgesiceffects on pain, and anti-depressant effects by acting as an agonist on CB1 receptors in the brain. Because cannabinoids work with the body’s ECS to bring homeostasis to the individuals well-being, i.e. it brings balance to re-regulation, they could be the perfectly natural answer to the downward-spiraling quality of life for patients who suffer from pain, depression, and addiction to medication like opioids that do not bring balance, but create further imbalance.
What Are We Waiting For?
Although since ancient time cannabis has been used for its myriad therapeutic effects, for the better part of a century the U.S. has inhibited the progress of medical marijuana and cannabinoids by severely restricting access and refusing to fund research. But the stigma surrounding cannabis is lifting and more and more scientists, health care professionals, andlegislators are listening to both anecdotal and scientific evidence that prove the health benefits of cannabinoids.
With so many people suffering from degenerative diseases, psychological conditions, and the opioid crisis, we cannot afford to waste any more time not researching cannabinoids. It is also time to eliminate the stigma once and for all so that health care professionals and patients can feel comfortable and confident in using this natural, safe, effective alternative medicine.
Cannabinoids have already worked for so many people suffering from diseases conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and PTSD. More research can only lead to more discoveries, understanding about dosage, thus giving it further verification.
After years of research, it’s likely we’ll find that cannabinoids will become the standard in the treatment of so many diseases and conditions, and not the alternative. It’s our obligation to find out.
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Lev-Ran, S., Roerecke, M., Le Foll, B., George, T. P., McKenzie, K., & Rehm, J. (2014, March). The association between cannabis use and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Medicine, 44(4), 797-810
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University at Buffalo. (2015, February 4). RIA neuroscience study points to possible use of medical marijuana for depression [Press release]
Webb, C. W., & Webb, S. M. (2014, April). Therapeutic benefits of cannabis: A patient survey [Abstract]. Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health, 73(4), 109-111