The euphoric effects of marijuana can cause relaxation and stimulation. When high on cannabis, individuals with depression may experience a slight decrease in negative thoughts. While research has yet to confirm whether the drug causes depression, anecdotal evidence has shown that people who heavily smoke marijuana may have some risk for depression.
How Marijuana Affects the Brain
Using marijuana is now somewhat mainstream even though the drug remains an illegal, Schedule I substance. However, some states have legalized marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes.
Society’s perceptions of marijuana are shifting. Decades ago, Americans widely viewed cannabis use as taboo. Today, many people think that the drug isn’t harmful and that it helps alleviate physical or psychological health problems.
While marijuana may have some medicinal benefits, people should not self-medicate with marijuana without first consulting with a medical professional. Unfortunately, self-medicating to treat depression is common in America. When someone uses marijuana, the chemicals in the drug bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These receptors can change the balance of the mind and can cause euphoric effects.
Marijuana affects specific parts of the brain:
- Amygdala:THC affects the amygdala, which is responsible for the regulation of emotions, fear and anxiety. People who use marijuana can feel a sense of paranoia or panic.
- Neocortex:The neocortex is responsible for more complex thoughts, decision-making and movement. When the neocortex is affected, people might struggle to drive.
- Nucleus acumens:The nucleus acumens regulate reward and motivation.
Marijuana changes the normal functioning of certain chemicals and alters the balance of the mind. This change is why some people might experience a decrease in depressive symptoms. For others, marijuana can cause health complications like cardiovascular problems.
Can Marijuana Help With Depression?
Does marijuana help with depression? The euphoric effects of marijuana can cause relaxation and stimulation. When high on cannabis, individuals with depression may experience a slight decrease in negative thoughts.
However, research does not indicate that marijuana can cure depression. The National Academies study found no evidence of a statistical association between marijuana use and changes in depressive feelings.
Marijuana should not be the sole treatment for depression. Other treatments have shown effectiveness in reducing depression. These remedies include cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressant medications, and physical activity.
Recreational marijuana typically comprises high levels of THC and low amounts of cannabinol (CBD). THC is the ingredient in the cannabis plant that produces a high. CBD is a no psychotic ingredient that partially blocks the euphoric effects of marijuana.
Medical marijuana usually contains high levels of CBD and low amounts of THC. CBD has shown some effectiveness in treating mental illness and symptoms of epilepsy. The Food and Drug Administration has approved some medications that contain CBD.
The high levels of CBD in medical marijuana may help treat pain, anxiety, and nausea in some individuals. More research is needed to determine whether or not any form of marijuana can help reduce symptoms of depression.
Marijuana Use Can Cause Problems
A lot of people with depression see marijuana as a safe drug. But studies show that when you have depression, marijuana can increase your risk for some serious problems.
Worse depression For some people, marijuana adds to depression symptoms. Your risk is higher if you started to use the drug as a teen, are a heavy user, or use recreational instead of medical marijuana.
Lack of motivation When you use marijuana, you may find it more difficult to take part in activities that are good for you, one study found that about 20% of people who use marijuana for depression said it lowered their motivation.
Lower chance you’ll seek help. When you use marijuana recreationally, you’re less likely to seek professional care for your depression. And if you’re a heavy user and do see a mental health professional, there’s less chance their treatment will help you recover from depression.
Tobacco use and alcohol and drug misuse. People who use marijuana are more likely to smoke cigarettes and to misuse alcohol, marijuana itself, and other drugs.
Schizophrenia Certain genes can raise your risk of schizophrenia or psychosis. If you have these genes, marijuana use may trigger these disorders
Suicidal thoughts Studies link marijuana use to a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in teens and recreational users with depression.
Traditional treatments for depression
Treatment of depression is unique to you and the severity of your case. It’s possible to successfully manage and treat mild, moderate, and severe depression. Mild depression may respond well to psychosocial treatments, such as psychotherapy (also referred to as “talk therapy”).
Drugs usually aren’t recommended as a treatment for mild cases of depression.
Most of us feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times. It’s a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or injured self-esteem. But when these feelings become overwhelming, cause physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life.
Psychological treatments, such as behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapy, are also a good first step for people who have moderate to severe depression.
Antidepressants are another tool some doctors use for more severe depression cases. Examples include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricycle antidepressants. Drugs can carry potential side effects and should only be used under a doctor’s supervision. Antidepressants must be used with caution in children and teenagers with depression.
Risks of Marijuana
Although there is some evidence that marijuana may have antidepressant properties, there are also some important risks that need to be addressed when considering using the drug to treat depression.
A motivational Syndrome
There is a well-known phenomenon called “amotivational syndrome,” in which people who regularly and heavily use cannabis become apathetic, socially withdrawn, and perform at a level of everyday functioning well below their capacity prior to their marijuana use, It’s possible that this could mimic or worsen symptoms of depression.
Other Treatments for Depression
While more research is needed to explore the therapeutic potential of marijuana, it is important to note that evidence-based, effective treatments for depression are available. Each person is different. Psychotherapy and antidepressants are the first-line options when it comes to treating depression.
Almost 8% of teenagers are affected by depression, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide. Depression is an epidemic, with teenagers and youths in their early twenties being especially vulnerable.
Some research indicates that people who use marijuana (especially regularly or heavily) are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who don’t use the drug. But research has failed to conclude that there is a causal relationship at play; it is not clear that depression directly results from marijuana use.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression: A combination of symptoms lasting more than a week might indicate a mental health condition
- Angry outbursts, irritability, or restlessness
- Avoiding friends and activities they once enjoyed
- Feeling sad, empty, numb, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Changes in energy level (tiredness)
- Changes in eating (overeating or eating too little)
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Problems with concentration, memory, or ability to think clearly
- Being unable to complete tasks
- Sudden decrease in school or work performance
OTHER DEPRESSIVE DISORDERS
Unfortunately, major depressive disorder is not the only depressive disorders out there. Just like how there are many different types of cancer or heart conditions, there are other mood disorders that have similar effects on the people who suffer from them. These include:
People with dysthymia often have a depressed mood that is generally less severe than those who have depression but lasts longer. Often lasting more than a year
- Adjustment Disorder (Situational Depression)
Adjustment disorder or situational depression is a shorter-termed form of depression that happens because of a traumatic incident or major life change, these can include the following:
- Relationship problems such as a breakup or divorce
- Experiencing the death of a loved one
- Developing or having a loved one develop a serious illness
- Stress caused by physical changes in adolescence
- Academic failure or stress
- Changing school
- Being a victim of a crime
- Having an accident
- Undergoing a major life change (such as having a baby)
- Bipolar Disorder
Also known as Manic Depression, people with this illness cycle between periods of depression, periods of mania, and periods where they seem to be OK, Mania is almost like the opposite of depression, and symptoms can include:
- Feeling great
- Having lots of energy
- Racing thoughts
- Little need for sleep
- Talking very fast
- Having difficulty focusing or having a short attention span
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there)
- Delusions (believing things that are not true, e.g. having superpowers)
Bipolar disorder affects about 2% of the population worldwide. Because of the wide range of symptoms, bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, or even alcohol and drug abuse. If you’re experiencing both highs and lows, it is important to tell this to your counselor, social worker, or healthcare professional.