For those who suffer with depression, the struggle to find safe and effective treatment is rife with trial and error. One of the biggest risks with trying a new form of treatment is the exacerbation of current symptoms. With over 300 million people in the world suffering from depression, there is a desperate need for a safe and effective treatment. That treatment can be cannabis, if approached with caution and research.
One study completed by Washington State University’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program showed that women dealt with their depression better with cannabis compared to men. Additionally, symptoms improved 50% across both sexes with depression. Over 89% of study participants saw a reduction of symptoms during tracked sessions as well as a significant decrease in stress levels.
Though it is difficult to find studies proving certain strains work better, terpenes can play a major role in treatment. Strains high in Limonene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Linalool and Beta-Pinene work well as anti-depressants and can also combat other symptoms like fatigue. But picking the best strain for your treatment will take some experimentation and patience, especially if you have any co-existing medical conditions.
In addition to terpenes, it is important to monitor THC content. Studies show that depression worsens in rats exposed to high doses of THC, but improves with low doses. A strain high in CBD and low in THC is recommended, because high levels of THC can cause effects like “couch lock” and paranoia, which can trigger a depressive episode.
While current laws make peer-reviewed clinical data scarce, there are many anecdotal accounts of cannabis working as treatment for many mental health conditions. It is important to note, however, that certain medications can make symptoms worse. And Jessie Gill, RN—cannabis nurse and founder of Marijuanamommy.com—says, some people can’t replace their current treatment with cannabis, though it can be used as supplementary therapy.
”People with depression should know that cannabis can occasionally interact with some antidepressants like Zoloft, which could increase the risk of experiencing side effects or adverse reactions. Patients on medications should introduce cannabis slowly into their routine. Many cannabis patients eliminate their need for other meds, but NOT everyone can. Depression can be serious, so patients should utilize all available tools in managing it, including traditional pharmaceuticals when needed.”
Because mainstream medicine bases most decisions on peer-reviewed studies, there will likely be pushback against using cannabis for depression. If a prescribing doctor doesn’t agree with supplementing treatment with cannabis, you can always get a second opinion. Even if you don’t agree with the doctor, it’s very important that you don’t abruptly quit your antidepressant. Social worker Laura Geftman, LCSW, founder of thecalmcoolandcollected.com, says that a person should never just quit taking psychotropic medications.
“Quitting antidepressants ‘cold turkey’ could make you sick, set back your treatment and increase your symptoms. Antidepressant withdrawal is real, and cannabis cannot immediately replace any medication. Talk to your prescribing doctor. If they are not supportive of cannabis use, consider getting a second opinion but do not just stop taking your meds!”
Whichever route you choose, going slow and starting low is key to safe experimentation. Do your research and consult a medical professional. As Geftman points out, the most successful treatment plan involves the support of a doctor who is familiar with your case. She also makes it clear that traditional medicine is just beginning to understand the possibilities of cannabis.
She says, “It is, however, worth noting medical schools just started educating about the endocannabinoid system. Many healthcare providers are not well versed in medical cannabis treatment and/or maybe associated with corporate systems that will not yet allow them to discuss this as an option. Don’t be afraid to ask if the provider you are scheduling with is knowledgeable and supportive of medicinal cannabis use.”
Diana-Ashley Krach is a freelance writer, journalist, and content creator whose work can be found
on Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, and Playboy. She is the co-host and creator of Your Highness Podcast and founder of Good Vibes Marketing Agency. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.