Today, there are many individuals who live their lives in the shadow of a great enemy. An enemy that cannot be seen, but causes death by the thousands, and tears families and communities apart. We are not talking about some, futuristic, or biological weapon that we all hear about on the news, but something far older, and dearer to our hearts. We are talking about depression, and anxiety.
While these two often go hand in hand, it’s not uncommon for one to cause the other, and the two create a seemingly endless, dark abyss that can suck sufferers in, making them feel there is in fact no way out, and no hope for change. Over the millennia we as a species have struggled attempting to aid those who suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety. Some remedies have been more successful than others, and some just seem barbaric! Today, the treatments for depression and other mental illnesses, all follow similar courses, excluding a few odds and ends here and there. For many people, the standard course of talk therapy, and antidepressants via psychologists and psychiatrists is extremely helpful, and can help in gaining control over their symptoms, and their lives. For others however, it simply is not enough, and other options are often explored with varying effectiveness. One such option, is marijuana. Yes, that marijuana; medical cannabis is quickly becoming a viable option for many individuals suffering from numerous ailments are finding out. While there is not, and probably never will be an actual cure for depression and anxiety, medical marijuana might be a powerful tool against it.
The Problem of Depression and Anxiety:
Depression, as defined by the United States National Institute of Mental Health, “Is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” Those who suffer from depression, which they can have on their own, or comorbid with other mental disorders, can have mild symptoms, to those so severe that they cannot leave their beds, and dream and think of nothing but death. Depression, in its varying forms, can, in actuality, destroy the lives of those suffering from it, and drastically impact those around them. Sadly, as one would expect, suicide rates among those who suffer from one of the varying forms of depression is quite high, and presents unique challenges to those attempting to keep their loved ones safe.
So then what is one to do? How does one treat depression? Well, doctors recommend that there are many life changes that can bring positive results, but for more severe cases, talk therapy, called psychotherapy can be extremely beneficial, in tandem with that many people, who are comfortable with it, can find relief in the form of antidepressants and other medications provided by a psychiatrist, even added to that there are other forms of therapy that can be very beneficial.
However, sometimes all of that is either just not enough, or doesn’t fit the individual’s needs, we are not all the same, nor should our treatments be. While cannabis has a long history of medicinal usage, its recent status as an illicit drug have made research, and treatment using cannabinoids very difficult, if not plain impossible. Despite evidence we have that cannabis can help with multiple medical ailments, it has been utterly illegal in many places. Recently, many governments, both on the local, and more federal levels have been legalizing cannabis for medical purposes (some even for recreational but on a smaller scale). Cannabis is quickly turning into a viable, and powerful alternative to modern medications and treatments for depression and anxiety. Let’s explore just why, and how this is occurring as we continue onwards!
Problems and Drawbacks using Cannabis as an Alternative:
As cannabis, specifically the cannabinoids it possesses, the main ones being THC and CBD, become a continually more accepted form of treatment for many disorders and diseases, we are finally starting to get a scientific glimpse at the medical potential of marijuana. While a great deal of it is promising, and does, in fact, support the idea that cannabis can be an alternative, or used in tandem with standard treatments, it is not all good news. Some studies show that cannabis can actually have some pretty disturbing negative effects on the brain, and how it functions when used over long periods of time, especially, and possibly only, when used by adolescents, affecting their still forming minds.
There is some evidence, while inconclusive, that lends to the idea that chronic marijuana consumption by adolescents can lead to the development, or be worsening of psychotic symptoms, or disorders such as schizophrenia. The problem here is however, is how little we know about disorders that cause psychosis. There is a great deal we understand, but much more that we do not, especially when it comes to the causes. Less than one percent of the population suffers from a psychotic disorder, and according to said studies only around 25% of those are cannabis users. When one looks at the entire world of cannabis use, there are many more who use cannabis and do not suffer from psychosis, vs. those that do. However, what the interesting problem could be, is what cannabis does to the developing mind of those who have a familial predisposition to psychotic disorders. It seems that in this case, there does seem to be a connection of higher rates of development later on in life.
A great deal more research needs to be conducted on the effects of long term cannabis use, but one could say we must also research the long term effects of all the other prescription drugs we are putting in our body. Only time will reveal these secrets, but we must be patient, and do what we can in the meantime. What can be concluded however, is that if cannabis does cause the worsening, or even development of these symptoms, it is extremely rare.
Benefits of Cannabis as an Alternative:
So, now that we have completed discussing some of the more negative aspects of cannabis use on the mind, it’s time to go over why someone would turn to medical marijuana to alleviate their depression. While again, we run into the problem that there has been so little research done, we can combine what we do have, with what patients have to say. Cannabis would not have almost non-stop continued use by our species for millennia if it did not help us in some way, and typically the things that stick around the most, mean that they the benefits outweigh the risks. There are many known medical uses for cannabis, and not least of all is treating anxiety and depression. While of course we all know that some of us can get paranoid while we are partaking, we overall feel much happier, relaxed, and simply just ready to face the world! There are many reasons that this occurs, and much of it is backed by scientific research. In fact, some studies suggest that some cannabinoids, the active chemicals in cannabis that produce the effects we are all aware of, can actually act as an antidepressant, and as an anxiolytic. We have even been able to isolate particular strains that are more beneficial than others at combatting depression and anxiety symptoms.
Many people are turning to cannabis as either an alternative, or as an additive to their current treatment, and it seems we have the evidence to back up their claims of it helping them. More research is needed on the benefits of medical cannabis on depression and anxiety, but so far what we do know is very promising.
While depression, and anxiety are very common, they are serious mental conditions that can lead to a much lower quality of life than someone who is not depressed. You have to always remember that while there may not ever be an actual cure, there are things out there that can help you, and improve your life. If you are ever feeling hopeless, or feel like you might hurt yourself, please call a crisis hotline, find a family member or friend, and get yourself somewhere where you can receive the help that you need. That being said, preliminary research, and patient claims. Only the future will be able to tell what the fate of cannabis will be in the future of medicine, but we will have to wait and see!