Medical marijuana has a variety of uses in everyday society. Some people swear by it as the best treatment for their health conditions. Various health conditions that medical marijuana is used for include: nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), pain management, and muscle spasms. The fact is that there are many therapeutic effects that can be derived from medical marijuana. Although the usage of marijuana is a highly effective treatment for certain conditions, using it to treat depression is generally not recommended.
Medical Marijuana for Depression: Should it be used?
Medical marijuana is not typically prescribed to treat depression. Marijuana is primarily a depressant – which could actually exacerbate symptoms of depression. In people who are clinically depressed, we must look at scientifically studied treatment options. In one large scale Swedish study of over 40,000 men ages 18 to 20, marijuana was not associated with any increased risk of depression.
Does this study mean that it is safe to use as a treatment option? No. Nowhere in the study did it say that marijuana improved mood in people with depression. It simply found that in this age group of men, it didn’t raise depression rates. However, what if you are someone who has gone through the standard treatments such as SSRI’s, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and are at your wits end? There are still plenty of other augmentation strategies for treatment resistant depression that you probably haven’t tried.
These strategies should always be utilized before turning to medical marijuana. Obviously many people self-medicate with marijuana and it can help them get through tough times. Unfortunately there isn’t much evidence in support of its usage as a long term treatment option for depression. As research progresses, we will find out more about whether it can help individuals with depression.
Why medical marijuana is not recommended for depression treatment
There are a number of reasons that medical marijuana is not considered a universal top notch treatment for depression. Most professionals have concerns with safety, dependency, side effects, and long term effects of marijuana on brain development. There simply isn’t enough research to justify its use in treating depression.
- Alters brain structure: There is some evidence that suggests that cannabis usage may alter brain structure in both adolescents and adults. The fact that it could have such an impact on the brain of someone suffering from depression raises a flag of caution.
- Causes depression: There are moderate associations between early-marijuana use and depression. Therefore, some experts believe that marijuana can actually cause some people to feel more depressed. A study found that those who smoked cannabis in adolescence and/or adulthood were at an increased risk of experiencing “depression spells” in adulthood.
- Dependency: Marijuana dependency is associated with major depressive disorder. Individuals that are dependent or frequent users of marijuana are more likely to have issues with depression. Many drugs can temporarily alleviate symptoms of depression, but most substances do not provide long term relief.
- Depressant: Marijuana acts primarily as a depressant on the central nervous system. Among individuals that are depressed, this may actually worsen the condition. In most cases of depression, people need to stimulate activity in the nervous system, not depress it.
- Not researched: There is a lot of bro-science or unfounded recommendations about marijuana working for depression. Heck there is even evidence that while using it many people experience an antidepressant effect. However, we do not know the sustainability of this antidepressant effect and the degree to which users experience an uplifted mood. There aren’t many major studies that have been conducted with marijuana to treat depression.
- Panic attacks: The usage of marijuana has been linked to causing panic attacks. Although it may help with depression, it may cause people to panic. Panic itself could make it even more difficult to deal with depression.
- Schizophrenia: Some believe that marijuana can cause schizophrenia. Various studies have found links between marijuana usage and schizophrenia. Although evidence is controversial, it should be considered. Another study also found that it can raise schizoaffective tendencies.
- Suicidal thoughts: Some believe that marijuana can cause individuals to develop suicidal thoughts. This obviously would make it tougher for an individual that is already struggling with severe depressive symptoms.
- Withdrawal: Although for many people withdrawal isn’t much, for others the marijuana withdrawal symptoms are severe. These include things like: cravings, irritability, depression, and anxiety. Due to the fact that this medication can be difficult to withdraw from, it is not recommended as treatment. Some would argue though that SSRI’s can be just as difficult.
Should you use medical marijuana for depression?
Nobody can tell you how to treat your depression. You have full control over what actions you take to cope with your condition. Most scientific research suggests that marijuana is probably not the best treatment option for depression. Although it may have an antidepressant effect while using it, so do many other illicit substances. For further reading, check out the article Psychological Benefits of Marijuana. When the effect wears off, the person then must ingest more marijuana to achieve the desired emotional effect.
Additionally, not everyone experiences an antidepressant effect. Most evidence points to the fact that marijuana usage can actually contribute to feelings of depression and dependency. If we are talking illicit drugs, there is considerably more evidence for using psilocybin for depression than there is marijuana. The most well documented treatments for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants (SSRIs).
If you are looking for the most natural possible treatment options for your depression, read the article 10 natural cures for depression. There are methods that people can get over their depression without using drugs of any kind. Now that marijuana is starting to become legal in many states, I’m sure more studies will be conducted regarding potential antidepressant properties. But until a large-scale study proves that marijuana is a viable long term solution for clinical depression, it cannot be medically recommended.
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