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It’s estimated that most people will live through at least one bout of mild depression in their lifetimes. Others will suffer frequent major depressive episodes while some people may be chronically depressed.

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If you have depression or believe you may be suffering from it, the best thing you can do is consult with a medical professional, such as your family doctor, a therapist, a counsellor, a social worker, or a psychologist. These people can get the wheels in motion to help you get the assistance you need.

Once you’ve taken this first major step, you may wonder “How can I help my depression?”

There are many things you can do to alleviate depressive symptoms once you’ve been diagnosed. Receiving a diagnosis and beginning therapy, counselling, or treatment are positive steps forward. Other things you can do include exercising, meditation, joining a support group, journaling, and more. Your treatment options will vary with the severity of your symptoms.

One area currently being explored is how medical cannabis interacts with depression. Can medical cannabis help with depressive symptoms?


What the Science Says about Medical Cannabis and Depression

The research in this area has been relatively limited, although there is a great deal of interest in it. Different studies have reached different conclusions, which has led to conflicting reports about whether or not medical marijuana can help those who live with depression.

When you look at the scientific literature, you need to be sure you’re evaluating it critically. Studies use different methodologies, and some studies are better than others.

This mixture of high- and low-quality research accounts for some of the different conclusions about medical cannabis and depression.

More research is still needed in this area, but the current outlook is good. The emerging consensus appears to be that medical marijuana could help depression.


How It Might Work

Cannabis is known to be psychoactive. Strains with high THC content in particular are known to act on the brain. CBD also works on the brain and could potentially increase serotonin and theoretically help.

Medical cannabis could play a role in treating some issues that may lead to the development of depression or control some symptoms of depression. Cannabis can treat chronic pain, for example, which often goes hand in hand with depression. Insomnia and anxiety, which often occur with depression, may also be treated with medical cannabis. This, in turn, can help improve some of the symptoms of depression.


Understanding Correlation and Causation

Some studies suggest cannabis use and depression may be linked. What these studies haven’t been able to establish is causation.

In some studies of cannabis users, it was reported they were more likely to be depressed than the general population. The reverse was also true. People living with depression were more likely to use cannabis than the general population.

This correlation is interesting, but it doesn’t mean cannabis use causes depression, or that depression causes people to use cannabis. More research is needed to fully understand the complex genetic, social, and environmental factors that lead to this situation.


Is Medical Cannabis Right for You?

If you’re living with depression, you may wonder if medical cannabis can assist you. If you suffer from chronic pain or a sleep disorder like insomnia, then medical marijuana may be able to assist in controlling your pain or managing your insomnia, which can worsen depressive symptoms. However, cannabis is not recommended for depression today. We simply don’t know whether it works on this complex mental health issue. We may not get an answer soon, but hopefully more research will be directed here.

Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you.


how-medical-cannabis-is-changing-ptsd-treatment

Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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