Depression is a debilitating condition that interferes with a sufferer’s ability to enjoy and engage with life, often making it difficult to keep a job, care for children, or carry on healthy relationships. Stress and depression are intertwined; chronic stress elevates cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and reduces neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, increasing a person’s risk for developing severe depression as well as other physical and psychological symptoms. Research has revealed a few ways in which cannabis can help to alleviate stress and depression.
Cannabinoids and Chronic Stress
Researchers have found that chronic stress reduces the production of endocannabinoids, the naturally occurring analogues of the psychoactive and medicinal compounds in cannabis. In a recent study, scientists administered marijuana-derived cannabinoids to rats that were subjected to chronic stressful stimuli and found that this treatment successfully restored endocannabinoid levels in the rats’ brains. This has caused researchers to suspect that marijuana could help patients to stabilize moods and ease depression.
Cannabis has also been shown to stimulate the growth of new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis. Cannabidiol (CBD), in particular, has been found to stimulate the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus. Research has indicated that neurogenesis decreases in times of stress, while stress-relieving activities such as exercise help to restore the production of new neurons. In one study, mice were subjected to stress-inducing stimuli and then given a dose of CBD two hours later. Researchers found that the CBD increased neuron production and combatted the effects of chronic stress in the mice.
People who suffer from depression hold a negative bias that colors their perceptions. Events that might otherwise stimulate pleasure or joy are muted, and those that evoke sadness, stress, or other negative emotions are highlighted in a depressed person’s mind. A 2013 study showed that administration of THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive component, can induce a shift toward a more positive bias, which could potentially help to alleviate symptoms of depression.
One neurobiological study that utilized a synthetic form of THC found that it acted as a potent antidepressant in low doses but could exacerbate depression and other psychiatric conditions in higher doses. Bear in mind, however, that CBD, which also contributes to marijuana’s antidepressant properties, has been found to ameliorate many of the negative effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia. As a result, a cannabis product that contains a balance of THC and CBD may be more effective as an antidepressant than one that is simply high in THC.
Nature’s Gift Shop in Pueblo West carries a wide variety of lab-tested cannabis products for both medicinal and recreational use, including those high in CBD. Our friendly and well informed budtenders can help you find a product to fit your individual needs and preferences.
Would you like to learn more about how cannabis acts on the body? Download our eBook, “Cannabis and Your Endocannabinoid System.” It’s free!
The Nature’s Gift Shop blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice or a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice a qualified health care provider if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of anything you read on this website.
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 Dorm, "Neurogenesis Gives Birth To New Neurons In the Brain; Helps Relieve Stress." Medical Jane. n.p., 19 Jul 2013. Web. 7 Oct 2015.
 Bossong, et al. "The endocannabinoid system and emotional processing: A pharmacological fMRI study with ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol." European Neuropsychopharmacology. Elsevier, Dec 2013. Web. 7 Oct 2015.
 "Cannabis: Potent Anti-depressant In Low Doses, Worsens Depression At High Doses." Science Daily. n.p., 24 Oct 2007. Web. 7 Oct 2015.