What does research show?

“Two puffs were sufficient to reduce ratings of depression and anxiety, while 10+ puffs produced the perceived reduction in stress,” reads the results section of a recent study on medical marijuana, published by the Journal of Affective Disorders. The study’s data showed that “Cannabis significantly reduced ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress.” Furthermore, researchers from the Washington State University found that cannabis with a low concentration of THC and high CBD concentration had the best results in reducing perceived symptoms of depression. The study analyzed the recordings of 12,000 app sessions by using the app Strainprint; an app designed to help users decide what strains, methods, and dosage suit them best. Participants in the study recorded their personal experience when using cannabis for their depression and other mental conditions such as anxiety and stress; scientists were able to use data collected from the app to analyze the results. While the results of the study show that cannabis reduces symptoms of depression, data also suggests that prolonged use of pot to treat depression may magnify the symptoms rather than reduce them. The intensified symptoms may be due to the “inability to control for expectancy effects” when the nature of the sample is self-selected, as the ‘limitations’ section of the study explains.

Medical Marijuana vs. Antidepressants

When cannabis is self-diagnosed to treat depression, the user has no control over which strand and the quantities of its components he/she is consuming. The inability to acquire the correct form of strain, constituents, and dosage of marijuana to treat the condition is what may lead to its overuse and, as a result, exacerbate the symptoms of depression. Getting a medical marijuana card allows people with this mood disorder to get the personalized kind of medication while under the supervision of a qualified physician.

Unfortunately, society’s controversial connotation of the use of marijuana to treat mental conditions doesn’t make it readily available to people struggling with this mood disorder. Psychiatrists readily prescribe pharmaceuticals over marijuana when a patient is diagnosed with clinical depression. Antidepressants alter the balance of chemicals in the brain to relieve symptoms of depression. Not only do pharmaceuticals take time to show a noticeable effect on the condition they are treating, more often than not their intake is accompanied by strenuous side effects that take a further toll on the health of people consuming them. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), for example, are the most common form of antidepressants prescribed because they are “effective at improving mood with fewer or less severe side effects compared to some other antidepressants.” If taken as instructed, antidepressants are considered to be safe. There have been cases where the intake of antidepressants leads to a “few serious, potentially fatal, severe side effects,” such as increased suicidal thoughts in adults under the age of 25. Drugs.com also list blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headache, and reduced sexual desire or dysfunction as potential side effects of antidepressants. However, these side effects are listed in a general sense, each type of antidepressant may show individual side effects.

While the use of medical marijuana to treat mood disorders, such as depression, has its benefits, a study published in 2014 showed that while 71 percent of participants didn’t record significant side effects, 6 percent did report coughing and throat irritation as side effects. Marijuana has also been linked to triggering other mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, in patients that are at a high risk of psychosis; a mental disorder characterized by “detachment from reality.” Further research is needed to assess the effective way in which medical marijuana can be used to treat mood disorders such as depression. However, current studies that focus on the use of the phytochemicals of marijuana and their effect on the endocannabinoid system show promising results when stimulating the CB2receptor agonist, which lacks psychoactive properties, for treatment of depression. These findings strongly propose that CBD, because it doesn’t directly attach to CB1receptor, may be the best form of cannabis for people that want a non-synthetic way to treat their condition.

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