The dangerous and potentially deadly nature of pharmaceutical antidepressants has been making headlines this week, but alternatives have been available for millenia. Medical Cannabis has been used by human beings for all sort of ailments, including depression, anxiety, and general malaise. Since the early 1900’s, however, the plant medicine has been demonized and turned into an agent of immorality and social decay. So now society needs science and the government to affirm that medical cannabis can be used as an antidepressant, lest it remember its own history of healing.
New studies have emerged which show that pharmaceutical antidepressants can have a deleterious effect on health when used at higher doses. Children are more prone to suicide when introduced to high levels of antidepressant medication. Other studies have shown that withdrawal from antidepressants can also cause patients to lapse into suicidal ideation and some have fulfilled on the dark thoughts.
Cannabis has shown no such link with suicidal thoughts. Further, it has never been shown to be addictive and there is no risk of death from overdose. While studies have shown that it may be correlated with changes in the brain, other activities such as yoga and meditation also have been correlated with brain changes. Cannabis has also been shown to have a significant positive impact on Parkinson patients who struggle with pain and sleep issues.
Since pain and depression have been positively linked. One tends to cause the other, often sparking a negative feedback loop from which people feel helpless to escape. Cannabis may offer a safe and effective way out for many. Once it treats the pain and helps with sleep, among its many positive effects, the patient may be able to work out the purely cognitive aspects of the depression. There is anectdotal evidence showing that cannabis works positively with cognitive therapy methods.
A 2007 study done at Canada’s McGill University showed that a synthetic THC compound was an effective treatment for depression when administered at low doses. At higher doses, the synthetic THC reversed its effect and patients became depressed. Given that many substances can have deleterious effects at high doses, including aspirin, this difficulty with THC is not controversial or surprising. Medical cannabis was shown effective as an antidepressant, but discernment is needed to ensure that higher dosage does not result in a reversal of effects.
THC is but one of the 60-70 cannabinoids in the ancient plant medicine. To isolate it from the others seems odd for a scientific study, as the substance is usually smoked in a form that does not exclude any of its naturally occurring compounds. Some cannabinoids are pain relievers, which can be a factor in depression. THC happens to be most commonly associated with the psychoactive effects of the plant.
When injested, the cannabinoids in the plant interact with endogenous cannabinoids. Endogenous cannabinoids are naturally-occuring in the body and have even been found in mother’s milk. When a nursing baby lolls around after a feeding it is reeling in the effect of naturally occuring cannabinoids which can protect the child from pain and stress, generating a sense of ease and well-being.
The McGill study was prompted by anectdotal evidence from cannabis-smoking patients who reported an elevation in mood and outlook resulting from their use of the illicit plant. There are bound to be more such reports as people continue using the whole plant to medicate under their state’s loosened medical cannabis laws. In Washington and Colorado, patients are allowed easier access to their medication. However, they need to be careful of dosage and work to find the proper levels to treat depression.
As attitudes and legislation regarding marijuana begin to loosen, scientists will be able to apply their methodology to the ancient helping plant. What is important is that patients be given free access to the medicine of their choosing, particularly when that medicine is non-harmful and offers so many positive benefits. Medical cannabis may not yet be prescribed by the psychiatric community, but its efficacy as an antidepressant has been shown at reasonable doses, much like the chemicals created by large corporations.