Feelings of sadness can be normal in life. However, if the depression lasts more than a few days, it’s important to seek medical assistance. Depression can be situational, but Clinical Depression, which comes and goes and/or lasts for more than a few days, is a chemical imbalance within the central nervous system. For some, depression is “normal,” and many people convince themselves that they have to simply live with their illness.
Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities. Major depression is a treatable illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions. At any point in time, 3 to 5 percent of people suffer from major depression; the lifetime risk is about 17 percent.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 450 million globally live with a mental illness. Everyone’s symptoms vary, but generally when the following symptoms occur, depression is often the cause:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no other cause can be determined
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recognizes that “Depression can occur along with other serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression symptoms.”
The NIMH states that women are often more affected by Depression than men. According to the NIMH website, there are several forms of Depression:
Two of the most common forms of depression are:
- Major depression—having symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)—having symptoms of depression that last for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with this form of depression may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as:
- Perinatal Depression: Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression).
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.
- Psychotic Depression: This type of depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).
Depression can be treated several ways. Some patients find success with pharmaceuticals and talk-therapy. There are a variety of therapy approaches and psychologies. In addition to these medical interventions, Medical marijuana may also be beneficial to clinically depressed patients.
Medical marijuana is another option for patients suffering from anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders (a publication of the International Society for Affective Disorders: ISAD) discusses how cannabis is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of negative affect, i.e. anxiety, depression and stress. According the the publication, medical cannabis users perceived a 50% reduction in depression and a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use.
Even mainstream media has delved into the medicinal properties of cannabis and the science-based culture that cannabis heals. Men’s Journal published an article titled “Marijuana Can Help Battle Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and Addiction. The article described how “the most comprehensive research review ever done on the topic found that marijuana can help battle depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even addictions to alcohol and painkillers.” The research Men’s Journal is referring to is the 2017 journal article published in Clinical Psychology Review titled: Medical cannabis and mental health: A guided systematic review. The authors conclude that:
- Mental health conditions are prominent among the reasons for medical cannabis use.
- Cannabis has potential for the treatment of PTSD and substance use disorders.
- Cannabis use may influence cognitive assessment, particularly with regard to memory.
- Cannabis use does not appear to increase risk of harm to self or others.
- More research is needed to characterize the mental health impact of medical cannabis.
Patient self-reporting and clinical trials are the most efficient methods of understanding how well medical cannabis can help even those with severe symptoms related to depression. Patients may need to experiment with a variety of methods available for medical marijuana consumption. Each patient should consult their medical marijuana physician for a recommendation on the method and strain to meet each patient’s unique needs.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TYY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).