While scientific research and heated debates around medical use of marijuana are giving us more and more information and positions on the subject, new data continue to emerge on what conditions can be successfully managed or treated with cannabinoids that cannabis contains. It seems that depression can be included with confidence to the list now.
While marijuana in itself is not an actual treatment of certain conditions, it can be of big help when it comes to alleviating the symptoms. In case of depression, elements called cannabinoids that marijuana contains become a good and necessary substitute for endocannabinoids, which are brain chemicals similar to cannabis’s ones. Their primary function is to support our general psychological well-being, not letting chronic stress get in its way. As researchers from University’s of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions state, chronic stress is one from the most frequent triggers of depression, so ‘using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression’.
The research team has performed a number of procedures using rats, that helped them to conclude that level of endocannabinoids is connected with stress levels and chronic stress is a factor that causes their significant reduction. This, in turn, affects mood and cognition. However, giving rats marijuana-derived cannabinoids led to level of endocannabinoids’ restoration. Still, the scientists warn that these data are preliminary, as no research involving people has been conducted yet. So, no rush should be made in cannabis application as depression treatment.
At the same time, medical use of cannabis still remains a highly controversial issue not only politically, but also scientifically. According to Harvard Medical School, there is currently lack of evidence to support use of medical marijuana for many psychiatric disorders. Also, they draw public attention to the fact that there is a range of considerable risks like developing or triggering psychosis, anxiety or addiction. Moreover, as marijuana actually contains more than 400 chemicals, with only two of those – THC and cannabidiol – that scientists have gathered proper data on, it remains unclear and potentially troublesome to use the plant without regard to potential influence of all the remaining ones. Last but not least, as the data array still remain inconclusive due to often conflicting results of different studies, thus leaving medical use of marijuana potentially more risky and dangerous than beneficial due to contradictory effects it may have on one’s system depending on their genetics, heredity, state of health, as well as drug dosage and term of use.
Moreover, discussions in other parts of the world seem to have led to pretty much the same arguments and conclusions. For instance, this Australian source warns people against medical use of weed. There is ongoing concern about inability of doctors to confidently define the best dosage of drug for each individual, potential danger of long-term cannabis use as a trigger for mental issues like anxiety, PTSD and – yes – depression, if not immediately, than later in life. Risk of developing addiction to marijuana, worsen mental state of those who are at risk of developing grave mental conditions like schizophrenia and acute psychosis and significant difference of the ways people may react to drug right after taking it also don’t speak in favor of its medical application.
Still, as every case is indeed different and the debates around the issue don’t seem to get any less passionate, the best we can do now is probably wait for further research data to emerge, observe where our political stance towards the thing goes and carefully consider our options when it comes to our own possible need for depression treatment, weighing all pros and cons and deciding what’s better for us ourselves.