Over the years, the negative stance taken by the world against marijuana has become softer and more understood. As scientists study the drug with modern technology, they’ve found some medical benefits from the plant. Although not every country or state has adopted the same attitude, it’s no secret that marijuana use has skyrocketed. States like California were at the forefront of legalization for medical reasons with proposition 215, but states like Washington and Colorado took it a step further and legalized the drug recreationally.
Although marijuana won’t cause an overdose or severe withdrawal symptoms like benzodiazepines, which are prescription drugs, scientists are concerned that marijuana is a gateway drug that could lead to hard drug use. Despite the concerns, many people look at the drug as a more natural means to treat ailments like depression that can be debilitating, but does it work?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects 264 million people globally. The mental health disorder is the leading cause of disability and a significant contributor to the overall global burden of the condition. Unfortunately, women are more vulnerable to depression than men, and in many cases, it can lead to suicide.
Since 1999, suicide rates have increased significantly. From 1999 to 2017, suicides were up 33 percent, and the increase has continued to rise since 2006. In 2016, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death among U.S. adults and was the leading cause of death for individuals under age 35 in 2018.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, you should immediately reach out for help. However, for this reason, individuals may seek relief from their depression by any means necessary. In some cases, this is marijuana, but does it work?
Does Marijuana for Depression Work?
There is a link between marijuana and depression. Marijuana contains sedative and stimulant properties, making it a popular drug of choice for those with depression. With that said, it’s not considered a safe option to treat depression.
Is marijuana considered a depressant? Well, in some cases, and despite the research done on the drug, it’s unclear if those who smoke marijuana are more likely to be depressed. Although research hasn’t confirmed if marijuana causes depression, anecdotal evidence has proven that people who smoke marijuana in excess may be at risk for depression.
How Marijuana Affects our Brain
Despite many states legalizing the drug for recreational use, marijuana is still considered an illegal Schedule I substance federally. The consensus toward marijuana use has shifted into a more positive light, whereas decades ago, it was considered taboo. The majority of our population doesn’t think marijuana is harmful and that it’s an effective means of alleviating psychological or physical health problems.
Despite having some medicinal benefits, medical professionals recommend not using marijuana to self-medicate without speaking to an expert first. Since marijuana use to self-medicate depression is common in the United States, it may lead you to wonder how marijuana affects the brain.
When a person uses the drug, the chemicals bind to naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors in their brain. The receptors might change the balance of the brain and lead to euphoria. Marijuana affects specific parts of the brain that include the following:
- Neocortex: The neocortex is responsible for movement, decision-making, and complex thoughts. When this portion of the brain is affected, people might struggle to drive or complete other tedious actions.
- Amygdala: THC has a strong effect on the amygdala, which is responsible for regulating fear, anxiety, and other emotions. Individuals who use marijuana could experience panic or paranoia.
- Nucleus accumbens: As you’ll find with other drugs, abusing a substance can cause issues with reward and motivation, which is regulated by the nucleus accumbens.
Marijuana is responsible for changing the conventional functioning of specific chemicals and will alter the balance of the mind. For this reason, people could experience a decrease in their depression symptoms. However, for others, the drug could lead to health complications like cardiovascular problems.
Marijuana and Depression
The medicinal benefits of marijuana have been at the forefront of debates for many years as advocates push to make the drug more accessible. Many believe that marijuana helps people cope with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while others believe it causes more harm than good.
A study released in 2003 delved into the relationship between depression and marijuana, but the authors could not link marijuana causing depression. However, another study published in the journal of Addiction showed that heavy marijuana use could increase the symptoms of depression. However, researchers admitted that familial and social factors could have contributed to depression in those who were studied.
A 2007 study released by The Lancet examined the link between depression and cannabis and found that marijuana use increased the risk of psychiatric conditions like depression. Still, there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that marijuana is the culprit behind depression.
Does Marijuana Help with Depression?
Now that we’ve examined some studies showing no definitive link of marijuana causing depression, can the drug help alleviate symptoms caused by the condition? Since the effects of marijuana lead to euphoria, stimulation, and relaxation, a person under the influence of marijuana might experience a decrease in their negative thoughts.
With that said, this anecdotal evidence isn’t enough to say it can help with depression on a broad scale. Currently, no evidence exists indicating marijuana cures depression. Marijuana should never be used as the primary treatment for the disorder. For those who seek a natural means of treating depression and don’t want chemicals in their body, treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), talk therapy, meditation, diet, and exercise have proven effective.
Recreational marijuana and medical marijuana are slightly different variations, with recreational containing higher levels of THC, while medical marijuana contains higher levels of CBD.
Those who use medical marijuana can attest to the CBD treating anxiety, nausea, epilepsy, and pain, while THC produces more intoxicating symptoms. More research is required to determine if medical marijuana and CBD can be effective means of alleviating depression.
If you’re dealing with depression and don’t see a way out, you must reach out to a medical professional. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you need to get help immediately. Fortunately, there is a way out. Get the help you need today.