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CBD for Depression

We all feel blue sometimes, and if rainy days and Mondays get you down, that’s pretty normal.  But if Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays also give you the blues, that might be a sign that you’re experiencing depression.

Depression is a serious health condition that affects millions of Americans. And aside from the immediate symptoms, it’s also associated with a range of negative health outcomes.

Wondering whether you should try CBD for depression? Read on to learn why many scientists think that this cannabis-derived compound could be an effective tool in treating mood disorders.

About CBD for Depression

Claim

CBD can help alleviate symptoms of depression, and it may even be able to replace conventional pharmaceutical treatments.

Research Shows

So far, there haven’t been any human clinical trials on CBD for depression. But animal studies indicate that CBD may have some antidepressant qualities.

Just the Facts

CBD could be helpful for people with a range of mood disorders. For depression, though, there’s limited scientific evidence to support that claim.

About Depression

Major depressive disorder is a medical condition that causes intense feelings of sadness that last for weeks at a time. These feelings may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cognitive issues, like feeling foggy or distracted
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in six people experience depression at some point in their lifetime. And for people who seek help for depression, the most common treatments are medication and psychotherapy.

One in six people experience depression at some point in their lifetime. And targeting the endocannabinoid system could be the key to developing new treatments.
Antidepressant medications can come with unpleasant side effects, though. From weight gain to decreased libido, these issues can range from mild to intense, depending on the medication, the dosage, and the individual. This leads many people with depression to seek complementary therapies, like supplements, acupuncture, or yoga.

So, why is there so much interest in using CBD for depression?

Well, there is a system of chemicals and receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system. CBD is part of a group of cannabis-derived compounds called cannabinoids that can interact with this system in a variety of ways.

Because scientists have found that the endocannabinoid system is involved in psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression, cannabinoids are getting a lot of attention for their therapeutic potential.

How CBD Could Help with Depression

There’s a tradition of using cannabis to treat mood disorders that extends back for thousands of years. But because of the plant’s precarious legal status, the body of research on CBD for depression is pretty slim.

In animal studies, CBD has had antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.
That said, there are good reasons to think that CBD could have a positive impact on mood disorders.

For example, studies have found that in animals, CBD behaves similarly to some other antidepressant treatments. This may be because it interacts with receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin, much like a common class of antidepressant drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

It also has anti-anxiety effects, which may be helpful for the large percentage of people who experience both depression and anxiety. In fact, one study found that more than 50 percent of patients who visited their primary care physician for either depression or anxiety actually were experiencing symptoms of both disorders.

CBD may also help to stimulate the production of new neurons in the region of the brain called the hippocampus. This area is associated with memory, as well as coping with stress. The generation of new neurons is significant because researchers have observed that people with depression tend to have reduced hippocampal volume.

All-in-all, these are good reasons to think that CBD could be beneficial for people with depression. It’ll take more research, though, to establish that it’s truly an effective treatment.

Research Highlights

We’ve summarized some of the most informative studies on CBD for depression. Want to learn more? Click on each topic below learn more about what researchers have discovered.

2016: CBD for Motivational Disorders

The researchers conducting this review noted that cannabis “has been used to treat various physiological and psychiatric conditions for millennia,” and current research is focused on compounds like CBD and THC for therapeutic purposes. The review looked at the effectiveness of CBD in treating “motivational” disorders like addition, anxiety, and depression.

They found that across studies, CBD demonstrated overlapping mechanisms that showed promise for treating these disorders. For depression in particular, it may interact with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain, and could even help stimulate the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus.

The conclusion was that the multiple effects of CBD may make it an effective option in treating complex motivational disorders, including depression. The researchers called for further research to study the mechanisms by which CBD affects mood and motivation.

2014: CBD’s Antidepressant Effects in Animals

This review of animal studies found that CBD exhibits great promise in treating depression by interacting with 5-HT1A, a serotonin neuro-receptor.

2011: Cannabinoids for Mood Disorders

The relationship between the endocannabinoid system and mood disorders was the focus of this review, which also looked at studies exploring the efficacy of cannabinoid-based treatments.

Endocannabinoid abnormalities are associated with both depression and suicide. But clinical trials on using cannabinoids to treat depression have been limited. The researchers noted, however, that the existing literature had offered promising results, and called for further study of CBD for depression.

 

Concerns About Using CBD for Depression

You should always talk to your doctor about using CBD to address any health condition. When you’re dealing with depression, this may be especially important.

CBD may interact with other medications. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of using CBD for depression.
That’s in part because there are other health conditions with symptoms that can easily be mistaken for depression. If your mood is the result of a thyroid problem, for example, you will need to approach your treatment differently.

Another consideration is that CBD could interact with other medications. That’s because it’s metabolized by a group of liver enzymes that is also responsible for breaking down many pharmaceuticals, including some common antidepressants.

The end result is that CBD might make your other medications less effective, or it could intensify unwanted side effects. And if that’s the case, your physician may choose to increase or decrease your dosages of other medications to counteract these effects.

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The Author

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer

Meg Kramer is the Managing Editor of CBD Hacker. She's a writer and editor who has covered topics in science, health, and education.

When she's not writing about CBD, you can find her playing with her dogs or perfecting her bagel recipe.