There is already proof that cannabis could possibly be an alternative to anti-biotics which is nothing short of a miracle. Can it be a safer alternative for depression too?
There’s never been another time in history when mental health was taken as seriously as it is today. Multiple studies have concluded that a person’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. There’s also never been so much medication available to treat mental illness such as depression. Anti-depressant prescriptions tripled in between 1996 and 2007. Weather or not that’s a positive or a negative when it comes to mental health is another conversation. The question is, is this a safe and long term solution to mental illness?
Anti-Depressants On The Market
Anti-depressant medications are designed to balance the chemicals in your brain like serotonin. For more info on how marijuana can affect your serotonin levels check our previous blog Can Marijuana Affect Your Serotonin Levels?
Here are the top anti-depressants prescribed in 2020. Also known as the year of a deadly global pandemic and the worlds greatest democracy almost falling into chaos:
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Luvox (fluvoxamine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Trintellix (vortioxetine)
- Viibryd (vilazodone)
These medications are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While doing research for this blog I can’t help but think about those horrible commercials you have to sit through while watching cable tv like a cave man. They always list horrible side effects juxtaposed with an image of someone rock climbing or jogging in a park.
According to the NHS (Nation Health Service in the UK) most people will only suffer mild symptoms when first taking SSRIs and usually subside after regular use. Those symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
They suggest regular appointments with your doctor to monitor you and make changes if necessary. Serious side effects while rare are extremely frightening:
- Bruising or bleeding easily, including vomiting blood or blood in your stools
- Movement problems, such as stiffness or shaking
- seeing or hearing things that aren’t real (hallucinations)
- Trouble Urinating
- Serotonin syndrome
- Suicidal thoughts
While on paper that sounds terrifying these are rare side effects and your doctor should be made aware of any side effects before they get to this point. Anti-depressants work but they are not without risk. Cannabis doesn’t have side effects as extreme so can it be an alternative to SSRIs?
What Can Cannabis Do?
Wouldn’t it be great just to come out and say marijuana is the best substance for treating depression? It doesn’t look like that’s the case but that doesn’t mean it can’t help. The cannabis plant is full of mysteries and its effects on our brain are still being studied. For instance, THC has been able to treat people with PTSD. It’s been determined that the intoxicating effects of THC can reduce a persons rem sleep. Those suffering from PTSD commonly have night terrors in which their dreams recreate their trauma. That not only interrupt their sleep cycle but the person suffering from PTSD may be afraid to go to sleep which causes insomnia.
THC is also effective in increasing your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical mostly found in your digestive system and in your brain. A serotonin imbalance can lead to mood swings, loss of appetite and the ability to be dick to everyone you know. Smoking marijuana allows the THC to stimulate your CB1 cannabinoid in your brain to raise serotonin levels. This can get your appetite back and restore your mood so you’re not shouting at strangers for no reason. It is important to note that is not a permanent solution. Too much serotonin can lead to serotonin syndrome which can have serious effects on your health.
On the other side of the coin is CBD. While CBD has no intoxicating effects it is known as a natural pain killer. It can ease anxiety and nausea. While it’s not proven to treat depression on its own it can be used along side SSRI medications to combat negative side effects.
Of course everyone is different so be sure to consult your doctor if you are taking anti-depressants.
Can It Replace Anti-Depressants?
If we consider using marijuana to treat depression there are a few things to consider.
While THC can be used to ease the effects of PTSD, losing rem sleep can have negative effects on daily life. Rem sleep helps our brain with cognitive functions such as learning or memory.
While CBD has been promising in treating mental illness it still needs research. Science still hasn’t determined the long term effects of CBD so downing a vial of oil and calling it a day could be premature.
Also, according to a study, heavy users of cannabis are at risk of developing depressing disorders. While it’s not a concrete conclusion the evidence suggests smoking weed constantly doesn’t make you the happy go lucky chap you think you are. Marijuana stimulates the brain and wears off. If you do this constantly all of a sudden the only way you can function normally is to keep stimulating the brain with THC because your brain has adapted. That is called dependence. The tricky part is trying to define what a heavy user is? Is it smoking once everyday? A few times a week? Every hour?
Marijuana, THC and/or CBD won’t be replacing anti-depressants anytime soon. So far the science has not indicated that it is a viable replacement for current medications. While cannabis can be an ally in treating mental illness, at best it is a short term solution. Depression and mental illness are still relatively new in scientific studies. There is so much we still don’t know about the human brain. All you have to do is look at the NFL or any contract professional sport. In the last 20 years or so we’ve just moved on from saying phrases like “got his bell rung” to “concussion protocol”.
Perhaps one day CBD will be an active ingredient in a new medication to treat depression better than ever. That day is not today. I get excited anytime marijuana can be used medicinally because it’s another argument for its legality. However when it comes to depression the current science doesn’t support it as a replacement for anti-depressants.