Some anecdotal evidence and scientific research suggest that cannabis can help with depression symptoms. However, cannabis is also a depressant, so that it may increase feelings of sleepiness.
Cannabis can cause a person to feel calm and relaxed. However, for some people, cannabis is also a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Some people experience unpleasant side effects from using it.
Cannabis is not suitable for everyone. It has an adverse effectTrusted Source on adolescent brain development, and smoking cannabis can damageTrusted Source the lungs.
This article explores the potential pros and cons of using cannabis to treat depression, how to use it safely, and when to seek medical attention.
Does cannabis help with depression?
Cannabis refers to the seeds, stems, leaves, and dried flowers of the cannabis plant. The plant contains over 100 cannabinoids chemicalsTrusted Source, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source has not approved cannabis for treating depression. Research into whether cannabis is effective at helping treat depression is still in the early stages. However, some evidence suggests cannabis may be beneficial for some people.
For example, in 2022, researchers conducted a retrospective study of 7,362 participants at a nationwide medical cannabis clinic in Canada. People sought treatment for anxiety and depression and completed health questionnaires at their initial evaluation and during at least one follow-up visit.
Researchers found a significant improvement between scores at the start and end of the study. Similarly, some people have indicated through self-reported studiesTrusted Source that cannabis helped with their postpartum depression.
More scientific research is necessary to understand the effects of cannabis, CBD, and THC.
Can cannabis cause depression?
Cannabis may have links to depression. However, it is unclear if cannabis directly causes depression or whether people with depression are more likely to start using it in high amounts.
Some studies have suggested depression is a significant risk factor for developing cannabis use disorder (CUD), a medical term for a cannabis addiction. It may lead people to use cannabis more often or rely on it as a coping method.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCTrusted Source) warn that cannabis use can cause anxiety and paranoia in some cases, especially if a person uses it very frequently or in high amounts. There may also be a risk of temporary psychosis.
Is cannabis safe for teens with depression?
There is little research on cannabis use in teenagers with depression. However, the CDCTrusted Source notes that the association between cannabis use and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using cannabis during their adolescent years. Similarly, people who start using cannabis as adolescents are at a greater riskTrusted Source for CUD.
Cannabis may adversely impactTrusted Source, how a teenager’s brain builds connections between the areas responsible for thinking, learning, and memory. Scientists are still researching whether these effects are permanent and how socioeconomic factors may influence them.
Using cannabis safely
Before trying cannabis, it is important to speak with a doctor, especially if a person has been managing depression without support. There are several safe and effective treatments for depression that they can recommend.
If a person is interested in using cannabis to help treat their depression symptoms, there are some things they need to consider. Firstly, cannabis is not legal in all states. Doctors may only recommend it for certain health conditions in places where it is legal. These can vary from state to state.
People who can get a recommendation from their doctor to use cannabis should follow their doctor’s instructions for safe use. In addition to this, there are some general guidelines for using cannabis as safely as possible:
- Keep cannabis stored out of reach of children and pets.
- Use methods of consuming cannabis that is low risk, such as eating edibles.
- When using edibles, wait for them to take effect, as they can take longer to work.
- Start with a small amount to gauge the right dose.
- Do not smoke cannabis around others, particularly children and adolescents.
- Avoid using cannabis with alcohol and other drugs.
- Check with a doctor before using cannabis alongside prescription medication.
- Do not use cannabis before or during high-risk situations, such as driving.
- Seek medical help if cannabis causes side effects, or depression symptoms worsen.
Risks of cannabis for depression
Cannabis can potentially cause both physical and mental side effects. They can be short or long-term. Possible physical effects include:
- impaired body movements, such as slow reaction times
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- drowsiness or sleepiness
- breathing problems
Mental and cognitive effects may involve:
- altered senses
- mood swings
- increased anxiety
- trouble thinking clearly and problem-solving
- memory problems
- altered sense of time
High doses of cannabis may cause hallucinations and delusions, and regular use of high-potency cannabis may cause psychosis.
Cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding could adversely impact a child’s health and development.
Anyone considering using cannabis to treat depression may also consider talking with their doctor about the benefits versus the risks.