As of 2019, medical marijuana is legal in 33 states — 13 of which allow restricted use of either low-THC products or products that are strictly CBD-based, with no psychoactive effects whatsoever. While it’s true that marijuana laws vary from state-to-state depending on the respective qualifying conditions for a medical card, nine times out of ten, depression makes that list.
Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. With more than 3 million cases in the U.S. per year, it’s no wonder people are inquiring about medical marijuana. The big question is, can marijuana treat depression?
Let’s look at the facts.
The Symptoms of Depression
Depression is more than a bad day, a bad week, a bad month. The “persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes major depression can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide.”
It’s time we stop taking depression for granted and marketing it as “temporary” or “something you can get over.” Patients can’t “get over” depression the same way most of us can pull ourselves out of a bad mood with comfort food, a funny Netflix show, or a soothing yoga class. It’s often said that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, potentially a lack of serotonin and dopamine. Doctors to this day are still running tests and doing research. Symptoms of depression target five main physical and mental aspects:
Research on Marijuana and Depression
The truth of the matter is, research on marijuana and depression is still in the early stages, according to Healthline. “Right now, researchers share that possible benefits include the restoration of “normal” endocannabinoid function and mood stabilization.”
Did we lose you? In plain English, endocannabinoids are naturally existing neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are what make us feel a certain way after consuming marijuana. Maybe it’s happy, relaxed, sleepy, or hungry.
“Endocannabinoids play a role in motor control, cognition, emotions, and behavior. They also have a chemical makeup similar to that of [compounds in] cannabis.” So, if marijuana is so well-received by our endocannabinoids, it should also minimize the negative side effects of depression. Think about it this way: if depression is messing with our endocannabinoids to make us irritable, marijuana can potentially reverse those effects to make us feel better. It’s a push-and-pull relationship.
Marijuana is Not a Cure for Depression
We want to state something very clearly: marijuana is not a cure for depression. This may be where some people feel disappointed in their marijuana experience. They smoke and expect to feel better for days and days, maybe even their entire life. Keep in mind that the effects of marijuana are temporary, only lasting two to four hours on average when smoked and rarely more than eight hours when eaten as an edible. Marijuana isn’t a cure for anything, really. It’s not a cure for insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, etc. Instead, marijuana can work its magic to alleviate certain symptoms associated with a medical condition. In other words: stop taking marijuana and your symptoms will probably return.
Indica vs. Sativa — Which is Better?
If you’re still a believer in marijuana for depression, it’s time to pick a strain. Both indica and sativa can provide a positive experience, but in different ways. Indica, the true relaxer, is known to calm your mind, sink your muscles into the couch, and slow down your heart rate. It can prevent or stop racing, anxious thoughts that keep you up at night. It can also make you hungry if a lack of appetite is one of the symptoms of your depression.
Sativa strains, on the other hand, are characterized as energizing, uplifting, and creative. Indicas can relax the mind from depression. Sativas can distract the mind from depression. With the right sativa, your attention may be diverted from depression and projected onto a new restaurant you’ve been dying to try, that latest true crime documentary, a trip to the zoo with friends. Sativas can give you a boost of energy and motivation to think about anything and everything except depression.
The Best Marijuana Strains for Depression
To find your ideal strain, think about the one symptom of depression you’d like to combat. Some of these strains can actually kill two birds with one stone!
If you’d like to elevate your mood, you might try:
If you’d like a burst of energy, try:
If you’d like to relax and unwind, check out:
If you’d like to work up an appetite, we recommend:
The key takeaway for today is that research on marijuana and depression is limited (for now). Still, certain scientific studies indicate that marijuana can have a positive effect on our endocannabinoids — and that’s huge! Marijuana isn’t a “one size fits all” fix. If it makes you feel better, then who cares what the experts have to say (though we always recommend speaking with your physician or psychologist before embarking on a new treatment journey).
You’re entitled to feel good no matter what. You deserve it.