If you’re feeling down, medical cannabis could help you get back up. You often hear about the cannabis plant’s benefits for anxiety and pain, but depression is also one of the major ailments it can help treat.
According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide experience depression. To begin, there are various types of depression, which can occur endogenously (naturally or genetically) or situationally (based on life circumstances). Some kinds of depression, like major depression, are defined by an inability to enjoy life for at least six months, while dysthymia is defined by at least two years of on and off depression, balanced by more stable phases. There are also other varieties of depression such as manic depression, which accompany bipolar disorder — defined by rapid changes in mood, insomnia, or impulsive speech. Some people also experience seasonal depression, affected by shifts in the seasons.
Depression can cause someone to feel hopeless, lethargic, overly tired, or in other cases, overly energetic. It can affect sleep, weight, appetite, and other physiological functions, which are in part dictated by the endocannabinoid system.
Whether you’re on an antidepressant medication, or you’re trying to make positive changes to life you out of depression — be it focusing on a regular sleep schedule, eating three proper meals a day, or meditating — cannabis can be a useful supplement or treatment.
Unlike antidepressants, which need to build up in your system over time, cannabis is faster acting and will target depression in a more immediate sense (though not as long lasting, unless you use cannabis regularly). Whether you’re experiencing insomnia, negative mood, appetite loss, or repetitive, unproductive thought cycles, cannabis can help you break out of your typical thought patterns, stimulate your appetite, lift your spirits, give you energy, or help you sleep.
According to one study from McGill University in Canada, frequent cannabis users tend to have fewer depressive symptoms than people who don’t use cannabis. The researchers found that low doses of THC have antidepressant qualities and help produce serotonin, but high doses of THC have the opposite effect. This is what’s called a biphasic effect: when low doses and high doses have opposite results.
Another study found that cannabis caused improved cognitive function for patients with bipolar disorder.
“Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” according to Samir Haj-Dahmane, senior research scientists at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions. “Using compounds derived from cannabis…to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”
To that end, the best strains for depression include Jack Herer, a euphoric sativa, Harlequin, a 1:1 THC:CBD sativa that could also help with anxiety, Granddaddy Purple, to stimulate appetite, Lemon Kush to combat insomnia, and Cannatonic, a hybrid to help lift your mood.