Depression and marijuana: How is it a complex relationship

Guest Post
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Marijuana is not necessarily a depressant

Depression is a very severe and detrimental disorder. It can ruin the life of the people affected by it, and unfortunately, it is more common than it has ever been. In fact, according to a 2017 report from the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide have depression.

Depression is a seriously misunderstood disorder that is very difficult for a person who hasn’t been through it thoroughly. Depression is something a lot more severe and devastating than pure sadness. It is like a constant and never-ending pain from the tip of your hair to your toenails.

Does Marijuana help with depression?

When it comes to the treatment of depression, there are many misconceptions among the general public. Most people believe that pharmaceutical antidepressants are a cure for depression, whereas, in reality, they only numb the symptoms of depression and provide temporary relief. The best way to treat depression is undoubtedly conversational therapy; however, the role of antidepressants is to make attending these therapy sessions easier for patients.

Like any other pharmaceutical drug, antidepressants also have many adverse side effects, and people are always on the lookout for natural treatments. Recent studies into the medical benefits of cannabis have shown that it can be an effective alternative to antidepressants. However, contrary to popular belief, marijuana isn’t the end-all-be-all cure for every psychological disorder.

The relationship between cannabis and depression is a little more complicated, and today we are going to look at it in more detail. The end of this post will answer all your questions regarding the relationship between depression and cannabis.

sad man sitting against a bed
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How does cannabis work against depression?

Depression is undoubtedly a very complex disorder. If we look at the effects of the disorder on a molecular level, many changes happen in the chemical nervous system of a depression patient. However, the effect of depression can be boiled down to decreased dopamine levels in the body.

I know that that is an oversimplification of the matter, but it can help us understand how cannabis works against depression. Weed works against the symptoms of depression by affecting our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of naturally-occurring neurotransmitters and receptors that work together to alter our behavior and emotions, among many other bodily functions.

The chemical compounds or cannabinoids in marijuana can interact with our endocannabinoid system and increase the release of dopamine in our body. Which elevates our mood, and can promote normal dopamine levels in a Depression patient.

Cannabis is not a permanent treatment for depression

Contrary to popular belief, even though cannabis does promote normal dopamine levels, it is not a permanent solution. Like antidepressants, it also works only to numb the symptoms of depression; however, the side effects are less severe.

Therefore, cannabis can be used to gain temporary relief, so that attending therapy sessions is easier; however, cannabis on its own is not a viable long-term treatment for depression.

Choosing the right strain of cannabis

We know that the effect cannabis has on our bodies is mostly dependent on the strain that we are using. There are two basic kinds of weed strains Indica and Sativa. Moreover, the ratio of CBD to THC in a strain also determines how beneficial it can be.

Now, if you are using weed for its recreational effects, a high THC indica strain can work great, but such strain might not be best for treating depression. Though they do relax your mind, they can make you lazy and lethargic as well. Furthermore, high doses of THC can harm your mind and cause paranoia and psychosis, which is very bad for a depression patient.

On the other hand, Sativa strains usually have a more stable effect on our minds, and some high-density strains in CBD can make you more creative and energetic while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Knowing this, it seems evident that high CBD sativa strains are the best for treating depression.

Man sitting on park bench smoking

Smoking cannabis and its drawbacks:

Though most people smoke cannabis, whether they are looking for recreational or medical benefits, there are better ways to consume it. Smoking cannabis isn’t nearly as harmful to your lungs as smoking tobacco, but it can still introduce some carcinogens to your lungs, causing problems like shortness of breath and coughing.

It would be best if you considered using edibles instead of smoking weed. The concentration of cannabinoids in edibles can be controlled; therefore, you can get high CBD edibles, which will make you feel better without any euphoric effects.

However, edible can take some time to kick in; therefore, they might not be perfect for instant relief. Another option that is safer than smoking is to use vape pens. You can also get CBD concentrates on using in your vape pen for effective treatment of depression.

The Biphasic effect of cannabis:

Another important concept that you need to be aware of is the biphasic effect of cannabis. The term biphasic implies that cannabis can have two different effects on a person depending on the amount of consumed.

For instance, where a small dose of weed may prove to be very effective in treating depression in a person, a higher dose may have opposite effects in the same person and trigger effects like psychosis and anxiety.

Microdosing weed for depression relief:

Microdosing is precisely what the name implies; it involves taking small doses of cannabis instead of getting extremely high every time. Microdosing works on a simple principle known to be very true for cannabis, that the body can only produce a particular amount of cannabinoid receptors at a time, and using too much weed, increases your tolerance and confuses your chemical nervous system.

Final Thoughts

Cannabis is undeniably a very effective treatment for depression, and it has helped numerous people battle through it. However, using cannabis for the treatment of depression is not as simple as many people believe.

You need to use the right strains and take the proper doses; otherwise, cannabis can have adverse effects. This is the reason why the relationship between cannabis and depression is so complicated. However, I hope this post clears some of your queries regarding cannabis use to treat Major Depressive Disorder.

This is a guest article, here’s a little about the author

Josh Lees is a final year psychology student. He is a passionate writer and loves to research about mental and physical health. He has published many articles regarding different mental conditions. To find out more about his journey head over to