Updated on January 29, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
It’s vital that patients with major depression disorder get the treatment they need. Unlike illnesses like cancer or Parkinson’s, it’s easy for individuals with depression to hide their condition. But without help, depressive symptoms can worsen and even lead to serious complications.
There are many types of depression, from anxious distress to postpartum, which occurs after mothers give birth. However, they are all characterized as a mood disorder that affects almost every area of daily life with a deep sense of melancholy or loss of interest. Many patients with major depression disorder see it as a weakness and attempt to cope with it on their own. However, others are unable to manage symptoms of the disease.
Although there is a common misconception that cannabis can worsen feelings of depression, the plant has been used for centuries to heighten mood and give users energy. Today, with our expanded understanding of the endocannabinoid system, doctors are starting to realize that it may, in fact, be an effective treatment for depression.
Having the “blues” is a common human experience. However, if feelings of depression last for longer than a few days, you should consider visiting a mental health professional. They will be able to assess your condition to determine if you have major depressive disorder.
There are five categories of symptoms that represent areas of a patient’s life affected by the disorder. When patients have some of these symptoms lasting for longer than two weeks, they may be diagnosed with depression. These categories include:
For decades, despite marijuana being illegal, patients have used it to self-medicate and treat their depressive symptoms. This led many experts to falsely believe that cannabis caused their depression in the first place. However, we’re now finding that these patients were seeking a method of managing their depression on their own.
Now that medical marijuana is legal, we’re discovering that its effects on our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) are what makes it such an effective treatment. The ECS has a series of receptors found throughout the body. Using naturally produced cannabinoids, the ECS brings balance to other systems and physiological functions. It plays a role in sensations of pain, digestion, immunity, mood and more. When the endocannabinoid system is thrown off balance, it can make it more difficult for our body to fight off certain symptoms, including feelings of depression.
Cannabis contains cannabinoids similar to those naturally produced by our bodies. They cling to ECS receptors and help bring healing. For those with depression, this means the cannabinoids in marijuana can help combat some of the major symptoms associated with the disease.
Depression presents itself differently depending on the person. Some individuals feel lethargic and sleep for extended periods of time, while others find it difficult to fall asleep. Some lose their appetite, and others struggle with overeating or even obesity. While medical marijuana cannot treat every symptom of depression, there are quite a few the plant can help. These include:
It’s important that any cannabis treatments for depression be taken under the supervision of a medical professional. If you’re interested in medical marijuana, find a doctor near you who can see if you qualify and offer you advice about this course of treatment.