Depression and Medical Marijuana
As medical marijuana has become slowly legalized in multiple states around the country, more people are turning to marijuana to treat depression. These people feel that marijuana has less harmful side effects than some prescribed psychiatric medicine and that marijuana is also easier accessible and affordable. However, this new trend has been a recently a debated topic as some people argue it cannot treat clinical depression and can actually make symptoms worse. Marijuana can indeed lighten the mood for some, but it’s long term effect on depression is questioned.
Overall, marijuana has made leaps and bounds in terms of its perception. For decades, marijuana carried a negative connotation, often deemed a gateway drug to other more harmful substances. However, a switch in narrative with marijuana being utilized as a medication has fostered a billion-dollar cannabis culture and this movement as a depression remedy.
Below we explore both sides of the argument for medical marijuana as a treatment to depressive symptoms.
Those that are weary of marijuana being used as an effective treatment for depression suggest that there is no evidence to support that marijuana helps psychiatric disorders. According to Reuters Health, Dr Goodwin of Columbia University in New York City, “There is no evidence to suggest that cannabis use will ease depression symptoms, except temporarily, and there are data to suggest that cannabis use may worsen or prolong depression,” She adds, “Historically, patients in treatment/recovery from depression are advised to avoid cannabis use.” There is also research indicating that symptoms of diagnosed psychotic illness may be aggravated by marijuana use, such as psychosis.
Some also argue that marijuana use can cause depressive symptoms of low motivation, isolation, restless sleep low mood and apathy. Another red flag being raised in this discussion is the fact that teenagers may begin to see marijuana as an option to self-treat their depression which is divisive as marijuana has been shown to greatly affect their developing brains.
In support of marijuana being a valid method for treating depression and to combat that it causes depression, those argue that it is likely that the genetic and environmental factors that trigger depression also lead to marijuana use. The thought is that marijuana users are already more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who don’t use marijuana.
One study in 2015 by the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions found that the chemical compounds endocannabinoids in the brain, which are linked to feelings of overall well-being, activate the same receptors as THC. The notion is that using marijuana can restore normal endocannabinoid function, and ease depression. Those that use marijuana for depression do so by micro-dosing to get the positive effect without them feelings lethargic and unmotivated.
Clearly the complex relationship between depression and marijuana needs to be further researched and studied. Despite the debate, self-medication is not recommended. Those experiencing symptoms of depression should seek professional treatment and discuss with their doctors to find out which medication is best for them.