Moments of sadness or feelings of being stuck are all a part of life, but we usually find the strength to process our feelings and recover. However, when these feelings of sadness grab hold of your life with no end in sight, it can morph into depression, which is a disorder that can harm both the body and mind.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 350 million people all around the world are affected by depression. In the United States, the most regular form of medical treatment for depression is pharmaceutical drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), antipsychotic drugs, and antidepressants, as well as many of the same medications that are used to treat anxiety.
The problem with these medicines is that they often cause dependency, and usually, the list of side effects will far outweigh the benefits – shockingly, suicide is a potential consequence of depression medication! The good news is that many recent studies have found that CBD has the potential to reduce the symptoms of depression. Read on to explore more about what depression is, how CBD can work as a treatment option, what medical research is saying, and dosing information.
Overview of Depression
Depression is described as a mental health disorder that is associated with significant mortality and morbidity, substance abuse, impaired functionality, poor outcomes of medical conditions, and is a major risk factor for suicide. It is characterized by a loss of emotional expression, flattening of mood, and retardation of movements and thoughts. People who suffer from any form of depression typically have a depressed mood, loss of energy, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in activities that they used to be interested in, and a reduced ability to think or focus.
Between 2009 and 2012, an estimated 7.6% of Americans above the age of 11-years were diagnosed with depression. It was also found to be more common in females and people who were between the ages of 40 and 59. In 2015, there were approximately 16.1 million adults aged 18-years and older who had experienced at least one depressive episode the previous year.
Depression is often simplified to be a neurochemical imbalance, and it’s usually treated as such. However, a lot of scientists believe that rather than a cause of depression, neurochemical deficiencies are, in fact, a symptom. As a result of these findings, many researchers and doctors have turned their attention to the prevention of and minimization of triggers or causes.
Depression is also thought to be connected to conditions such as inflammation, and the structural brain changes that result from chronic stress or trauma – both of which could be the actual cause of imbalances. But ultimately, there are a wide range of influences that could contribute to whether or not an individual suffers from depression, including genetics, physical pain, past trauma, social isolation, physical illness, stressful life events, and chronic stress, among other things.
How and Why CBD Could Help in the Treatment of Depression
While CBD doesn’t cure depression, it has shown significant promise in treating the condition. The human body produces its very own cannabinoids which are known as endocannabinoids – this is aided by the consumption of fatty acids that are found in foods like nuts, seeds, and fish. Multiple studies have proven that CBD is capable of interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a network of molecules and cell receptors that help to regulate body functions like sleep, appetite, and mood. By linking to certain receptors in the brain, endocannabinoids supplement the action of serotonin, which is a neurochemical that relieves stress and improves mood.
CBD works in the treatment of depression by enhancing the activity of those receptors to which serotonin binds. The effects of CBD on the ECS and its ability to both release and optimise serotonin are responsible for producing the relaxing and calming effect that is often associated with CBD.
One of the main reasons that CBD is thought to be effective in treating depression has a lot to do with the 5-HT1A receptor, which releases serotonin, in that it helps it to fire more efficiently. This increases the serotonin production and stabilizes the presence of it in the body.
Serotonin impacts motor skills and emotion. It’s a natural mood stabilizer that helps with eating, digestion, and sleeping. Low levels of serotonin could lead to depression. Using CBD can increase the production of serotonin to help treat the disease.
Using CBD for depression also has an impact on the hippocampus – a small part of the brain that affects our limbic system. This is a system of networks and nerves in the brain that controls emotions like anger, fear, and pleasure. It’s the same part of the brain that controls basic drives such as hunger, sex, and care for children.
When you suffer from anxiety and depression, the hippocampus becomes smaller. CBD has the ability to stimulate neurogenesis, which enables the brain to create new neurons. The results found from using CBD to treat depression are similar to those experienced when using antidepressants like Lexapro, Paxil, and Zoloft.
Medical Findings: Effects of Cannabinoids and CBD on Depression
The conclusions that have been reached by scientific medical studies support using CBD as a possible treatment for both anxiety and depression. A 2010 study that was conducted on lab mice concluded that CBD showed an antidepressant type effect that was comparable to imipramine, which is a well-known antidepressant. These lab mice were put through a swimming test to explore the effects that CBD had on motivation. Unsurprisingly, the results showed CBD to have a positive effect on the physical activity of the mice.
The results of the above study were replicated in 2016 when a certain animal model study also found CBD to be an effective antidepressant. This study came to the conclusion that mice the mice were a lot more active and motivated after CBD had been orally administered.
In 2011 a study looked at the role that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays in mitigating depression, and also found CBD to be beneficial. This study found that a deficiency in the endocannabinoid signalling was sufficient to produce a depressive-like phenotype. This same study reported that by reversing this deficiency with CBD, depressive symptoms could be treated. Regulating the ECS with CBD was found to be sufficient enough to produce similar effects to that of conventional antidepressants.
As early as 2006, a study found that daily or occasional use of cannabis users had decreased levels of depressive symptoms when they were compared to those who didn’t use cannabis. Since stress is one of the main causes of depression, using cannabis moderately seems to stabilize the mood, and alleviate stress.
Medical Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Depression
Ultimately, CBD is a quicker alternative to antidepressants. It triggers the ECS and also accelerates the growth and development of the nervous tissue with little to no side effects. Treating depression with CBD is a natural remedy that gives patients peace of mind. It can also help to battle stress by combating insomnia, providing energy and focus, relieving anxiety, and enhancing mood.
How to Take CBD for Depression
There are multiple ways to consume CBD, but in the case of depression, it’s recommended that you ingest it daily in the form of tinctures or gel capsules. The two products typically have the same ingredients. The only difference is the form factor and dosage – sublingual tinctures vs. pills. It’s usually suggested that those who suffer from depression start off with a dose of 5-10 mg of CBD per day. If you don’t feel relief at this dosage, you can increase it by 5-10 mg per day until you reach the desired effect.
Gel capsules are pre-filled and usually contain 25 mg of CBD per capsule. There isn’t harm in starting off with 25 mg daily since you can’t overdose on CBD and there are no serious side effects. Both capsules and tinctures provide sustained relief for several hours – some people experience relief for the whole day. The one thing to think about is that these ingestible CBD products have a delayed onset time. It could take up to 90 minutes for the full effects of the capsules or tinctures to be felt.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Depression
While there are many independent studies and testimonials that give those who suffer from depression the hope for a natural alternative, more research is needed to be done before it should theoretically be considered as an alternative to prescription medication. However, the research that has been done shows enormous potential for the treatment of depression with the use of CBD. Since CBD is not addictive and safe to use, there is no harm in giving it a try.