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Cannabis and Depression

February 15, 2016

We hear a lot about how cannabis has helped people suffering from a wide variety of physical ailments, from cancer to glaucoma to AIDS. Stories about using cannabis to treat psychological disorders such as depression, however, are less common. Fortunately, as cannabis sheds the stigma that has long been associated with its use, more people are speaking out about how cannabis has helped them deal with mental illness. Doctors and researchers are also beginning to come out in favor of cannabis and its potential to treat psychological disorders.


What is Depression?

Depression is a complex mood disorder that often leaves sufferers unable to work, eat, sleep or have fun due to their inability to feel joy or pleasure. Several forms of depression exist:

  • Major depression — constant inability to enjoy life for six months or more
  • Dysthymia — at least two years of mild depression with stable periods
  • Bipolar disorder or manic depression — depression with rapid mood changes, often accompanied by hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, rapid speech, and insomnia
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — depression triggered by seasonal changes

The World Health Organization estimates 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. That makes it the leading cause of disability worldwide.

What are the Causes of Depression?

  • Abuse — physical, sexual or emotional
  • Conflict — with family, friends or loved ones
  • Genetics
  • Isolation
  • Loss — such as the death of a loved one
  • Major transitions or life events
  • Serious illness  
  • Stress — chronic stress is one of the leading causes of depression
  • Substance abuse  

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

No two people are the same, but hopelessness and lethargy are common symptoms, along with low self-worth, guilt, or shame. It can leave a person tired and unable to concentrate or suppress negative thoughts, leading to short tempers and irritability. It can be difficult to make decisions or remember things. Depression can also spur reckless behavior along with significant weight fluctuation and sleep issues. Insignificant tasks may become excruciatingly exhausting and time-consuming.

Depression can ultimately lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recorded more than 42,000 reported suicides in 2014. That's a life every 15 minutes. Although depression affects more women than men, more than 75 percent of suicides in 2014 were men.

The Best Cannabis Strains for Treating Depression

Current Treatments for Depression

Since a combination of biological, psychological and social factors can cause depression, there is no straightforward treatment or cure. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Eliminate stressors, add meditation to your routine, exercise regularly to boost endorphins, eat nutritious and balanced meals, and sleep 7 to 9 hours each day.

Psychotherapy can be utilized to help recognize and express emotions while building the skills needed to cope with adversity, trauma, and loss. Forms of therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy, or interpersonal therapy.

Antidepressants alone don’t treat depression, and many can take several weeks to take effect. Side effects include dizziness, disorientation, and weight gain. Be sure to talk to your doctor.

How Does Cannabis Help Depression?

Cannabis has been used to treat depression throughout history. In 1621, English clergyman Robert Burton recommended its use in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy, while doctors in India during the same period were actively using it to treat their patients’ depression.

Cannabis is a faster-working alternative to antidepressants that stimulates the endocannabinoid system and speeds up the growth and development of nervous tissue with little to no troublesome side effects. This natural remedy offers patients peace of mind and battles stress by enhancing mood, providing energy and focus, relieving anxiety, inducing hunger, and combating insomnia.

Occasional or daily cannabis consumers have lower levels of depressive symptoms than non-users, a 2006 study found. Researchers at McGill University, in Montreal, discovered that THC in low doses can serve as an antidepressant and produces serotonin — but they also found that high doses of THC can worsen depression symptoms. The cannabinoids THC and CBD are known to exert sedative, antidepressant, and antipsychotic effects on consumers.

The University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, touted marijuana as a cure for depression and other mental illnesses after conducting a study that found THC can alter the response to negative images or emotions by activating the endocannabinoid system in the brain. Another study linked cannabis use to improved cognitive function in people suffering from bipolar disorder.

Further research needs to be done, but as long as the federal government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, research will continue to be limited. Moreover, depression is not a qualifying condition in most states to obtain a cannabis recommendation. Nonetheless, we do know stress is one of the leading causes of depression, and moderate use of cannabis appears to alleviate stress and stabilize moods.

Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions who studies chronic stress and depression, concurs: “Chronic stress is one of the major causes of depression,” Haj-Dahmane says. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”

How Does Depression Impact Your Sex Life, and Can Cannabis Help?

  • disqus_LKcQz1uuRd

    This article and this topic need more attention. Marijuana has significantly helped me with my depression.

    I’ve been smoking for a long period of time, 6+ months, and I feel my depression is at I level I can cope with now.

    In addition, smoking marijuana is an instant stress reliever and I find myself zipping through chores and doing things I enjoy that I haven’t had the emotional energy to deal with in a year.

    If you’re wondering do I mean “I smoke marijuana and get high to alleviate my depression”? Yes, that is what I mean. Depression is that serious, that I need to get relief. Depression is a horrible illness that is 24/7. I want the public, lawmakers, researchers, and journalists to address this fact: I GET HIGH TO FEEL BETTER.

    Marijuana causes a high when a person smokes marijuana because a chemical reaction happens in the brain that stimulates the brain’s acceptance of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.

    That is important to depression sufferers because that means smoking marijuana directly combats depression – as depression is caused by the rejection of neurotransmitters.

  • A very informative examination of depression and the benefits Cannabis may have in alleviating some of the symptoms. Follow up articles on the subject of Cannabis and depression would be greatly appreciated. Have a peaceful and productive day.

  • Garrett Elmer

    I know people shouldn’t advertise but I go to and buy my cannabis oil which I use for my ADHD and restless nights : ( Theres a lot of scammer websites so be careful people!! : )

  • DoloRese Plante

    I used cannabis to wean myself off of the antidepressant Effexor.
    It’s been 4 years since that day. My health has completely changed since replacing Effexor with cannabis. Since that day; I’ve lost 80 lbs., I don’t have anymore joint pain, any inflammatory bowel symptoms nor suffer from depression! Matter of fact, the better I feel, the more energy I have and accomplish so much more than ever before, when I was on Effexor, 80 lbs. overweight and was a “zombie” with no emotions, had horrible stomach problems and had so much joint pain, I couldn’t get out of bed. Nobody can ever convince me to go on back on synthetic drugs ever again!
    The “proof is in the pudding”

    • Karen Ferrandi

      would you be able to name the type you used because I too was on Effexor-4 years and also severe IBS. I am working with my two sons to find a strain that would combat the anxiety/depression I feel..especially when I awake. Thank you in advance for reply! <3

      • DoloRese Plante

        Hi Karen,
        I have two strains that I use; the first one is Shiskaberry for nighttime and CBD Shark strain for daytime. CBD Shark is fantastic for anxiety/ depression! I usually vape it in the morning and take it as a tincture during the daytime. good luck

        • Karen Ferrandi

          Thank you so much for reply..but what company is this please?

          Many thanks


          • DoloRese Plante

            We grow our own. I don’t live near dispensaries and I wanted quality medicine, growing our own was the only way to guarantee that. We bought our seeds through a Mark Emery store online.

          • Karen Ferrandi

            ty…I wouldn’t be able to..good luck to you..i too have to get my family to even mail anything with thc as my state doesn’t recognize anxiety/depression…can u believe that!

          • Karen Ferrandi

            Also one thing I wouldn’t want is a high because last time I smoked actual marijuana , I had 3 tokes and felt paranoid. Of course we are all different but do you feel ” altered states with these” or just relaxed? My son got me Huxton 100% flower extract the ZEN I believe my other son got me and alternate from JETTY Shelter from the Storm but not sure which one exactly. I do know they sent me V LOW thc..and I don’t feel high and I do feel somewhat calmer from a 10 to a IBS has not given me any difficulty so that’s positive, I just need feel more calm as im still edgy..but again don’t want a high…AnY advise/sharing much appreciated Thank You!! <3

          • DoloRese Plante

            Have you tried suppositories? I heard that they don’t make you high.

          • Shelly Williams

            I was reading these old posts. I am also a long-term user of antidepressants with IBS. I wondered if you’ve come up with something? I was on about 7 medications a days until I changed doctors. It has been through this withdrawal period, which for me has been awful. The last reduction was my last but the side effects have been terrible to I reached out to medical marijuana. I was prescribed 1/20 tincture of 75 mg CBD. I’m not sure about the math, but my sister signed up at a different time and a different doctor and also got the same recommendations. I’m open to anyone’s input. Thanks!

        • Karen Ferrandi

          ty I got your e but it would not let me reply on the thing so I wrote a note and hit regular reply. Oh well…at any rate: what brand is it and is it CDB or THC , how many times do u vape in am? I fortunately sleep well but upon getting up I am depressed and anxious. Thank you again for any help.

        • Tony

          Thanks for the info you posted. I have tried to find the sweet spot for THC and CBD to help with my Anxiety, Depression, and IBS to only find minimal relief. Can you tell me how many mgs daily you take of each? I realize the THC may be hard to say depending on how you consume. But hopefully you can give me some idea of mg of CBD each morning to get started and how many throughout the day. Thanks!!!

          • DoloRese Plante

            hi Tony,
            My CBD tincture recipe is 1 oz. of decarbed bud (CBD Shark- 80-20) & 24 oz of Everclear grain alcohol made into a tincture, (It makes about 11- 2oz bottles in all)(Got the recipe on Leafly recipe site) and I take 1/2 tsp three times a day. I vape Shiskaberry at night to sleep. But the biggest change was adapting my diet to a High Fat/ Low Carb diet in conjunction with cannabis. Think of your body as being symbiotic, everything is connected- so what you eat plays a big factor in healing. Good luck 🙂

    • Sharon Seiver

      DoloRese, how did you transition from Effexor to marijuana? I’ve been on Effexor for years and really want to get off it but have terrible withdrawal symptoms after just a day or two if I don’t take it.

      • DoloRese Plante

        I took a job teaching in China, I thought it would be a good time to get off Effexor. I only took enough drugs for 6 months. I was taking 350 mg/day, so I started by decreasing my dose by one pill every few weeks (I don’t like doing anything “cold-turkey”) I waited for the brain shakes to lessen before decreasing again. When I was down to one pill a day, I bought a bunch of gel capsules and separated the 75 mg pill into two. When I got used to that dose, I divided a pill into 4 doses, and so forth until my year was up. But I still had the brain shakes! So I discovered something on a Thailand vacation, I smoked some cannabis and it took away the brain shakes! So once I got back to Canada, I never took another Effexor and switched to cannabis(I wish I could have had cannabis oil in China!) I took cannabis oil for 3 months, (it knocks you out and you sleep a lot) then switched to vaping 3/day (it controls any anxiety I may have). I’m productive, happy and can feel again! I hope the same for you 🙂

        • Sharon Seiver

          Thank you. I would so much like to live my life without all the negatives of Effexor!

      • Johnny Sheehan

        Hi Sharon,
        Have you ever tried CBD oil?

        • Sharon Seiver

          No. I’m new to the idea of medical uses for marijuana but I have a friend who sells in my area.

  • Kayla Webster

    I’ve never smoked weed without having a bad high until finding cali kush. I live in ohio so it’s not easy to get many strains. Once coming across this specific strain I was able to feel fine without my medication. Knowing i didn’t have much and not knowing if I could get it again I only smoked when I really needed to. I’m wondering if there’s any other Strains (and I’ve found quite a bit, but not the right ones) specificly for depression. Any help is appriciated.
    Edit: now looking up cali kush the main thing it says for medical is stress😧 not sure why it’s changed from looking it up a month or so ago. Other Strains that I’ve looked up with stress being #1 haven’t given me that feeling.

  • Wayne buds

    Variety of top quality medical marijuana Hash, Wax & cannabis Oil, Indica & Slactavis.. lets kick out pain,cancer, depression ,brain tumor,insomia and lastly pills…(928) 432-3067 💯🍀Hmu!!!

  • bOb Marley

    While I side with most everything in the article and a die high kinda guy, its negligent to not mention the very real dangers and cons of marijuana. Its bad vibes when you treat it like holy water or the likes. it definitely is not and the high life is not for everyone, so let’s just start a ‘keep it real’ revolution and tell it like it is instead of acting like the money grubbing self absorbed whores of today. Let’s not forget that it is indeed a drug and a psychoactive one at that. It is physically and mentally addicting, and can have detrimental effects on one’s life due to the altered state. It can cause serious complications with certain mental illnesses, I can personally vouch for this,,, RIP bro. Also, lets remember that eyes and brains that have just started to be able to comprehend what we are talking about is in fact reading what we are writing. I do believe alcohol and chemical laced cigarettes and most other prescription drugs are worse, that’s why I chose the poison that I did..but you can’t really call it poison because it won’t kill you, blah blah.. one love

    • jake lamont

      100% agreed. In one breath they say it is a powerful “medicine” (using that word just grinds me the wrong way), in the next breath they’re saying it’s “harmless.” That’s the biggest lie the marijuana industry is touting. It’s worse than the tobacco industry with all the rosy talk of how great it all is. They never want you to hear about the lives and relationships it has destroyed due to it’s psychologicaly addictive properties. Smoking it is worse than tobacco because it is inhaled so deeply and for as long as possible.

      This article only talks about the anti-depressive effects while taking it, but what happens after the effects wear off? I think we can all agree there is a hangover, and for some it can be severe. I for one experience a near suicidal depression a few days after taking one toke of a sativa. Needless to say, I almost never consume any marijuana anymore. Maybe CBC or something would work to counter-act the post-high depression–?

      • Derek Holden

        Your argument on the “worse than tobacco” front is both invalid and downright retarded. And experiencing a hangover after weed use is a rarity. Don’t like it, try a different approach or a different strain, quality, and/or consumption method instead of writing it off as pseudo-medicine. Lives and relationships destroyed? It’s not heroin or crystal meth; it’s weed. Lighten the fuck up.

    • Derek Holden

      Its psychoactivity is the very reason some people find it an efficacious treatment for depression. Alcohol caries the same roughly 10% addictive potential. Gambling, sex, love, and fame also carry addictive potential. Antidepressants carry a black box warning that acknowledges their risk of making depression worse and increasing the likelihood of suicide. The dangers and cons of marijuana use are frankly and relatively lame. Another option? Shrooms. Maybe loving yourself and the world for four hours is enough to give yourself a more positive outlook on life.

      Btw, I’m sure you could easily find at least one other leafly article dedicated to marjuana’s potential downsides. Try not to be drunk on fear my friend.

  • Sarah Huffman

    I’m lost it helps with depression and then it can cause I was a smoker for a while but was told it don’t help this last year i had no pain and was feeling good but had to quit talk about scary my friend said its not a walk with faith you won’t get in to heaven

    • Dave

      Sarah Who do you think gave us this wonderful plant ? Friends who tell a person that feeling good and being pain free is not a good thing , I question there friendship or at least there wisdom , Do not go the chemical rout when you know a natural and effective treatment is available to you .

    • Rich

      The bible straight up says that we are supposed to use every seed bearing plant and herb that the Lord blessed us with (not the exact quote but you can look it up and find it real fast). That is indeed a seed bearing plant/herb and easily my favorite one we were given

  • JesseandGabriela Barrera

    well a cannabis doctor grant you a medical marijauna card for depression?

  • Dave

    What constitutes low doses of THC? I currently have purple Urkle vape. 20-25% so I hear. Haven’t tried it (or any marijuana) yet. Have depression and anxiety. Anxious about trying it.

    • Griffin

      Dave, anything over 20% is considered to be high when talking about flower. I’ve had the best results for depression and anxiety with strains that have around 14% THC and higher levels of CBD. Check out Maui, Maui Wowie, Charlotte’s Web, as well as Sweet Island Skunk.

  • Chihuahuatude

    I am a marijuana user and I have soul crushing depression. Perhaps The “proof is in the pudding” but please note that anecdotes (I am talking to you, DoloRese Plante) are not data.

  • Pedro Ferreira

    I have been smoking cannabis since I was 23 years old, almost every day, I am 50 years old. Since I am 42 years old I have suffered from anxiety, depression.
    I only smoke at the end of the day, after work. Cannabis has not helped me in depression or anxiety, I confess that when I am on the effect, I feel good, I can feel happiness in hobbies (I have always kept my life busy with hobbies). I’m an IT guy. But I confess that cannabis use has not improved my life in terms of happiness, I continue to isolate myself, unwilling to leave home, live, etc …

    Since I smoke, I have stopped using cannabis for long periods (3 to 6 months). So I decided to quit, since my depression never improved, quite the contrary. It may work in certain minds, but in mine it had no beneficial effect, except while on the effect of cannabis, I felt controlled, calm, perhaps happy. But since I can’t spend my life on the effect of cannabis, I stopped taking it a few months ago. And this time it will be for once. True, I feel worse as long as I stop consuming it, but I hope it’s a passing effect.