The history of using cannabis as medicine is vast, and it includes not only the healing of the body, but of the mind. Consuming cannabis has been used to treat everything from schizophrenia to epilepsy and many people use it as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical anti-depressants. It’s also used to soothe anxiety and help with sleep; two things most people who live with mental illness often suffer from.
Using cannabis to medicate psychological disorders is not as well-understood or studied as using it to treat pain or help with appetite. Yet millions of people rely on cannabis to soothe emotional or mental unbalance. In this series, Roottie will look at some of the conditions cannabis can help with, and talk about how it work. Let’s break down the stigma of smoking cannabis and the stigma of mental health issues with some education!
Cannabis and Depression
Perhaps one of the most common mental conditions people suffer from, depression is debilitating, frustrating, and exhausting. There are many different reasons someone may suffer from depression such as childhood trauma, genetics, or stressful life events. The most common types of depression are:
1.Dysthymia- characterized by a minimum of two years of on and off depressive symptoms
2.Major depression- characterized by constant depression, with no relief in symptoms, for six months or more.
3.Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)- also knowns as seasonal depression, this type is brought on by changes in the seasons.
4.Bipolar disorder- a mood disorder in which the patient suffers cycling through depression and mania.
The exact biological function of depression is not understood well enough to have a conclusive answer as to what exactly happens in your brain and body to trigger it. What we do know is depression triggers an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters, and the medications used to treat it readjusts this imbalance.
So, how does cannabis work to treat depression? Well, cannabis helps you produce dopamine, serotonin, and anandamide. Dopamine is involved in reward and satisfaction, serotonin in appetite and sleep, and anandamide in feelings of joy and well-being. All of these can be out of whack with depression, and cannabis will help you balance out. THC also binds to your endocannabinoid receptors, and a study found that this produced a noticeable reduction of stress in their rat test subjects. More research needs to be conducted before we can really understand how cannabis treats depression, but in the meantime, positive experiences from patients like me are pointing in a healing direction.