A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry shows that those diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety and were using medicinal Cannabis had lower depression scores than non-users, reports The Intelligencer. Those who were already using marijuana at baseline had lower depression scores than non-users, reports PsyPost. And former non-users who began taking Cannabis during the follow-up period experienced a reduction in both anxiety and depression symptoms.
Medical marijuana products are increasingly being used to treat conditions such as chronic pain and sleep disorders. But evidence for the anti-depressant effects of weed is somewhat hard to come by. However, the new study added some weight to the theory that the herb may help to treat depression and anxiety, reports IFL Science. It does so by revealing that users tend to display less severe symptoms than non-users.
Evidence suggests that many sufferers of anxiety and depression fail to seek help. Many are also wary of the side effects of taking medication. Researchers said that an increasing number of patients are now turning to weed after failing to respond to conventional anti-depressants.
This is precisely why “an increasing number of people struggling with anxiety and/or depression are trying cannabis products for symptom management.”
New Study Had 538 Participants
To determine whether or not there is any benefit to doing so, the researchers recruited 538 participants who suffered from depression, anxiety or both. Of those participants, 368 were medical marijuana users. Another 170 were considering using medicinal Cannabis but hadn’t started. The majority of respondents were female (79%) and Caucasian (83%).
The new study was led by Medical University of South Carolina neuroscientist Erin Martin, reports ScienceAlert.
“Anxiety and depressive disorders are highly prevalent,” Martin, a Ph.D candidate, said. “Traditional antidepressants may effectively treat these disorders in a lot of people, but they do not work for everyone and can have unpleasant side effects. People are increasingly using medicinal cannabis products, especially products high in CBD, to try to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression, even though scientific research in this area is both limited and shows mixed results.”
Participants answered questions about their marijuana use. They also completed assessments of anxiety, depression, recent pain, quality of life, and sleep quality. Every three months over a period of about four years, they were invited to complete a follow-up assessment. On average, participants completed two assessments.
Cannabis Users Experience Less Severe Depressive Symptoms
Initial results revealed that medical cannabis users experienced less severe depressive symptoms than non-users. They also enjoyed a greater quality of life, had better sleep, and experienced less pain.
This was especially true of participants using marijuana products that predominantly contained the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). Products dominated by THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component, weren’t as associated with improvements in depression.
“We found that use of THC-dominant products was not superior to use of non-THC-dominant products in alleviating depression symptoms,” wrote the authors. “In contrast, participants that reported use of CBD-dominant products provided significantly lower depression scores relative to those that did not.”
“There is also some evidence that medicinal cannabis may alleviate symptoms of anxiety, particularly if administered over an extended period of time, but this is less clear from our results and warrants further study,” authors concluded.
Initiation Of Use Associated With Reduction In Symptoms
People who were not using medical marijuana at the start of the study but began using during the follow-up period also demonstrated reductions in both anxiety and depression.
During the four-year follow-up period, a number of those who had been non-users began using medical marijuana. This often led to a noticeable improvement in their symptoms.
“We found that initiation of medicinal cannabis use was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, sustained use was associated with a modest reduction, and participants that did not use cannabis at all showed no difference in symptom expression between baseline and follow-up,” explain the researchers.
“These combined cross-sectional and longitudinal findings show a consistent antidepressant effect of medicinal cannabis,” researchers concluded.
Limitations Of The Study
These findings are, of courses, very positive. But the authors point out that their study has numerous limitations.
The researchers acknowledge, first of all, that it is a very small study. And it’s merely an observational study, relying upon questionnaires. That makes it impossible to determine any causal relationship between marijuana use and reductions in depression.
The study’s authors concluded that future placebo-controlled studies are necessary to replicate their findings. They additionally noted that such studies could “determine the route of administration, dose, and product formulation characteristics to optimize clinical outcomes.”