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  • Drew Herb Lesser

"CBD vs THC: Unlocking the Healing Potential of Medical Cannabis in Fighting Depression"

Updated: Dec 20, 2023




Depression is a prevalent mental health disorder that affects over 280 million of people worldwide, or 5% of the global population. It can have a debilitating effect on an individual's quality of life, leading to social isolation, decreased productivity, and in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. Although traditional antidepressant medications have been the primary treatment option, they are not always effective and can come with a range of negative side effects. As such, there is growing interest in alternative treatments, including medical cannabis. This article will explore the scientific evidence supporting the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for depression.


The Endocannabinoid System and Depression

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signaling system that is involved in many physiological processes, including mood regulation. The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, their receptors, and the enzymes responsible for their synthesis and breakdown. Preclinical and clinical studies have suggested that the ECS plays a role in the development of depression and other mood disorders. Specifically, dysregulation of the ECS has been linked to changes in serotonin and other neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.


Cannabis and Depression Cannabis contains over 100 different cannabinoids, including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with cannabis use, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has been studied for its potential therapeutic effects. Studies have found that THC can have both pro- and anti-depressant effects, depending on the dose and individual factors. Some studies have suggested that chronic use of cannabis may increase the risk of developing depression, while others have found no significant association.


CBD, on the other hand, has shown promise as a potential treatment for depression. Preclinical studies have found that CBD has anti-depressant effects in animal models, while clinical studies have suggested that it may have similar effects in humans. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 57 adults with depression found that a single dose of CBD reduced anxiety and improved cognitive function compared to placebo. Another study of 24 participants with social anxiety disorder found that CBD reduced anxiety and cognitive impairment during a public speaking task.


Benefits of CBD for treating depression:

  • CBD may help regulate mood by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain

  • CBD may have anti-anxiety effects, which can be beneficial for those with depression

  • CBD does not produce psychoactive effects, meaning it does not produce the "high" associated with THC

Disadvantages of CBD for treating depression:

  • More research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of CBD for depression

  • CBD may interact with certain medications, so it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before using it

Benefits of THC for treating depression:

  • THC may help regulate mood by interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the brain

  • THC may have pain-relieving effects, which can be beneficial for those with depression who also experience chronic pain

Disadvantages of THC for treating depression:

  • THC can produce psychoactive effects, including a "high" and changes in perception and mood

  • THC can have negative side effects, such as impaired memory and coordination, and increased heart rate and blood pressure

  • THC can be addictive and may have withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped


Conclusion


CBD has been found to have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties, which may be helpful in reducing symptoms of depression. Additionally, CBD does not have psychoactive effects, which means it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. This makes it a potentially safer option for those with depression who may be sensitive to the effects of THC. On the other hand, THC has been found to have mood-elevating effects, which may also be helpful in treating depression. However, THC can have psychoactive effects, which may be problematic for some individuals. Additionally, long-term use of THC may lead to negative effects on memory and cognitive function.


Overall, while both CBD and THC may have potential benefits in treating depression, they have different mechanisms of action and potential drawbacks. THC has been found to have both pro- and anti-depressant effects, while CBD has shown promise as a potential anti-depressant. As with any treatment, medical cannabis should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional and with consideration of individual factors such as age, medical history, and other medications.



References:

  • Hill MN, Bierer LM, Makotkine I, Golier JA, Galea S, McEwen BS, Hillard CJ, Yehuda R. Reductions in circulating endocannabinoid levels in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder following exposure to the World Trade Center attacks. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Dec 1;38(12):2952-61.

  • NIDA. (2021, January 22). Marijuana and cannabinoids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-cannabinoids

  • Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management. 2008 Feb;4(1):245-59.

  • Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Oct 1;12(4):



Disclaimer:

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be relied on as health or personal advice. The author is NOT a Doctor. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.


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