A Guide to Cannabis and CBD for Treating Depression
Mood disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 5.4% of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over reported symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder in the previous 12 months, including 4.7% for major depression and 1.5% for bipolar disorder. Also, approximately 12% of people have experienced symptoms that fit the criteria for a mood disorder in their lifetime. A number of people have turned to cannabis as an alternative treatment for depression.
What is depression?
Depression is defined by the DSM-5 as a mood disorder that affects how we feel, how we act and how we behave. Depression causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in things we once enjoyed. It can also lead to other physical and emotional problems that can interfere with our ability to function at work and at home.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include any of the following:
Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression. Also, some medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumour or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes.
What’s the difference between sadness and depression?
Sadness is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences and even though sadness is typically a characteristic of depression being sad doesn’t mean a person is depressed. So, how can we tell the difference? Some may think that the difference is based on the severity or intensity of the sad feelings. This is not true, there are many instances where a person may experience a significant amount of sadness, such as the loss of a loved one, but that does not mean they’re depressed.
The difference lies in the duration of the sadness experienced, the other symptoms that are experienced simultaneously, and the ability to engage in typical day-to-day activities.
Another possible way to define the difference is whether or not there is a particular trigger. In most cases, sadness is caused by a particular event, where depression does not require a particular trigger. Those who are depressed often experience a significant amount of sadness or hopelessness about everything.
Traditional Treatment for Depression
Treatments include psychotherapy (cognitive behavioural therapy), medication (anti-depressants), and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Psychologists also recommend behaviours people can engage in to help reduce the symptoms of depression, these include;
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis
- Eating a healthy diet, and
- Avoiding alcohol (a depressant)
Read more about treatments for depression at The Recovery Village.
Treating Depression with CBD
The most common medication used for the treatment of depression is serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs interact directly with the brain’s serotonin system. These medications can be quite effective for treating depression, as well as anxiety, but are not without their problems. SSRIs have a number of side effects and in most cases have a long onset – two to three weeks or so.
CBD may be an alternative treatment for depression due to its effect on the brain’s ability to use naturally occurring serotonin. A 2018 study suggests that CBD does not impact the amount of circulating serotonin but influences how the brain responds to serotonin, which indicates a similar effect to anti-depressants, such as SSRIs. And another 2018 study found in rodents one dose of CBD induced antidepressant-like effects.
Though it is important to note that no one should discontinue their use of anti-depressants without consulting their doctor or other health care professional. Abruptly discontinuing these medications can cause significant and unpleasant side effects.
CBD is also effective in managing other symptoms related to depression, like stimulating appetite and helping to fall and stay asleep. And as mentioned previously good eating and sleeping happens can help to lessen the symptoms associated with depression.
Why CBD over THC?
Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety. Some individuals report experiencing an increase in anxiety with the consumption of THC as a result of the psychoactive effects. Since CBD does not cause the same high as THC it appears to be less likely to cause anxiety.
Read more about using cannabis and CBD to treat Anxiety here.
How to Use CBD for Depression
CBD is going to be the most effective when used in conjunction with other treatment methods. Psychotherapy can help individuals get to the root of what is causing the depression. While CBD can help with managing the symptoms. At Envy, we do not recommend discontinuing current treatments for depression but adding CBD to our wellness routine.
Since there are not yet clinical human trials on the use of CBD for depression there is not yet a universally accepted dose. Daily use is considered to be the most effective at treating symptoms of depression. Using CBD daily helps to prevent symptoms and maintain maximum relief.
CBD capsules come in pre-measured doses (20mg) which can make it easier to use for some people but the dose is less customizable.
With tinctures, the easy-to-use dropper makes them very customizable. Tinctures also come in different concentrations as well as include CBD/THC combinations. THC and CBD affect the brain differently so using them in combination can provide further relief. So, for those who do not experience the relief they hoped for with CBD alone we recommend trying a 3:1 CBD/THC tincture. CBD helps to counteract the psychoactive high experienced with THC, so with a 3:1 tincture, most individuals still do not experience the high at low doses.
Cannabis Edibles for Depression
Edibles are an easy and discrete way to consume cannabis for depression. With Miss Envy’s CBD coconut oil you can add CBD to many of our favourite meals. It’s an easy replacement for butter in baking but it can also be used in many different ways. Try making bulletproof coffee in the morning or spreading it on your avocado toast, the possibilities are endless. Or simply try our Better Than… chocolate bars for an easy and tasty snack.
Check out the cannabis recipes section of our website for more ideas on how to incorporate CBD into your diet.
A number of people are turning to cannabis and CBD as a means of treating their symptoms of depression. CBD may be able to be used alone as a means for managing symptoms of depression but we do not recommend suspending other treatment methods in favour of CBD without consulting with a medical professional. It’s also important to note that there are some possible drug interactions with cannabis so consider consulting with a doctor before adding cannabis to your current health routine. And as always, when starting a new treatment we recommend starting with a low dose and working your up slowly until you find the most appropriate dose.