With the commercialization of the marijuana industry and new regulatory laws cropping up every year, scientists have been hard at work studying not just the physical benefits of the plant, but the psychological benefits as well. Through years of studious research, we have gained a greater understanding of the chemical makeup of marijuana and the possible uses it can have in treating human illness. While the use of cannabis as a pain killer is widely known, there is a lot of misconception surrounding the effect the drug can have on one’s mind.
In this article, we will aim to debunk the myths surrounding the dangers of the drug and present what research reveals to be the link between CBD and depression. So, does CBD oil make depression worse? Or can the chemical someday become the go-to depression treatment? Read on and find out.
What is Depression?
Before we move further, it is important that a distinction be made between sadness and depression. While the word itself is often tossed around, there is a big difference between feeling low and being depressed. According to Guy Winch Ph.D. of Psychology Today, “depression is an abnormal emotional state, a mental illness that affects our thinking, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in pervasive and chronic ways.” While sadness strikes everyone from time to time, what distinguishes it from depression is magnitude and longevity.
Depression can persist for weeks –even months and can be characterized by the following symptoms:
- An irritable mood.
- Decrease in pleasure or interest in activities that are usually enjoyable.
- Changes in weight and appetite.
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleep.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness.
- Trouble thinking, focusing, and making decisions.
- Having thoughts of suicide.
Traditional treatments for the disease range from therapy to prescription medications. A widely used form of treatment is the intake of SSRI drugs such as fluoxetine and paroxetine. According to Anxiety.org, SSRI medication works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain and making it more malleable –more flexible to changes and adaptive to learning healthier habits.
However, though SSRIs have proven helpful in dealing with depression, many questions persist about the drugs and they are not free from uncomfortable and often dangerous side effects. These side effects include: increased nervousness, dizziness, nausea, and insomnia, to name a few. Withdrawal symptoms can often make depression worse as well, so patients have to maintain prolonged treatment plans that can last months or even years.
CBD for Anxiety and Depression
Though cannabis has yet to be FDA approved for the treatment of mental illness, studies show that a certain compound found within the plant is effective in alleviating depression symptoms. The compound in question is Cannabidiol or CBD. So, what is CBD and what is CBD good for?
A naturally occurring chemical found in hemp, CBD is a phytocannabinoid that works in a supplemental way with the natural endocannabinoid concentration found in the human body. The human brain has CB1 receptors that help us respond to chemical signals from different stimuli. By supplementing endocannabinoids and acting on CB1 receptors, CBD alters serotonin signals, increasing their supply, but not triggering a negative feedback loop. Thus, more serotonin remains in the synapses between neurons, leading to improved mood and function.
To put it plainly, due to the subtle similarities in the chemical makeup between the stuff found in cannabis and in your immune system, the ingestion of CBD oil leads to improvements in appetite and immune system health, a decrease in inflammation, and various other therapeutic benefits. These results point to a lot of promise when it comes to the use of CBD for anxiety and depression.
According to CBD-International.net, “cannabis oil is a quicker alternative to antidepressants,” and leads to the improvement of nervous tissue function with fewer side effects than SSRI use. Positive CBD oil effects include:
- Pain relief
- Improved mood and cognition
- Better sleep
- Lower risk of cancer
- A reduction in acne (when applied to the skin)
- A decrease in psychotic symptoms
While CBD use is not free from potential side effects such as nausea and dry mouth, these effects are only temporary and often go away after a couple of hours. That being said, you might be wondering about another side effect of marijuana:
Does CBD get you High?
The use of CBD oil for depression seems promising, but not everyone who suffers from the disorder wants to be intoxicated all the time. Since CBD is a derivative of marijuana, it must get you high, right?
Not necessarily. Most strains of marijuana contain the full plethora of cannabis chemicals. One such chemical, besides CBD, is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The effects of THC are distinct from CBD. While ingesting the latter results in the effects listed above, THC intake causes the “high” associated with traditional marijuana products. When isolated from THC, CBD grants you all of its health benefits without the feeling of intoxication. In order to ensure this, you must pay attention to strand labels and product ingredient lists when perusing your local dispensary.
When at the dispensary, a product often confused with CBD is hemp. Here are ways of distinguishing hemp oil vs CBD oil:
- emp oil is usually sold in tall bottles or in the form of products while CBD oil is typically sold in the form of tinctures.
- Hemp oil is made from seeds while CBD is made from a combination of leaves, stalks, and seeds.
- Hemp oil is used for cooking, soap, and sometimes as a base for plastic while CBD is used primarily for medical purposes.
- Hemp oil includes no CBD or THC while CBD oil includes a high concentration of Cannabidiol.
- Hemp oil is used for its nutritional properties, while CBD oil is used for its medicinal properties.
Is CBD Safe to Use?
In its November 2017 meeting, the World Health Organization concluded that CBD, in its purist state, is non-addictive and has a low potential to cause harm. While tincture and cannabis use are included in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, comprehensive reviews of CBD and other cannabis related substances are still ongoing. As it stands, CBD is not subject to strict international controls.
That being said, you should keep a few things in mind if you’re interested in trying CBD oil out for yourself:
- Don’t expect miracles – while the research is promising, there is a lot left to learn about CBD and the quality of the substance –and by extension its effectiveness- varies by brand.
- Don’t mix drugs – CBD is practically harmless by itself, but mixing it with other substances may result in serious risks and complications.
- Consult with a doctor – Always seek medical advice before trying anything. While CBD studies suggest that the chemical is beneficial, you should still speak with your doctor before using it.
- Not a cure – CBD oil can help to treat depression, but it has not been shown to cure it as of this writing. Don’t expect it to serve as a substitute for all of your health measures combined.
- Don’t use it while pregnant – the effects of CBD on pregnancy have not been studied well enough yet, so using it –or any cannabis product- while pregnant or nursing is ill advised.
CBD and Depression, Final Thoughts
So, does CBD help with depression? We have thus far uncovered a great deal of evidence that speaks to the relationship between CBD oil and depression. While there is still much left to learn, what we have uncovered about the chemical is already serving to assist many individuals suffering from depression and other mental health illnesses. The research is promising and with the growing strength of the cannabis industry, we are sure to see further advancements in medical research within the decade.