If you’re among the 350 million people suffering from depression, you may have tried smoking weed to dampen the effects. Many cannabis users tout the positive effects of weed for depression, but the science is still lacking.
What is depression?
Clinical depression is a mental health disorder defined by an abnormally depressed mood that causes a significant impairment in daily life. Depression can come on from social, psychological, or biological stresses, whether it’s caused by trauma or a chemical imbalance in the brain. Symptoms include mood changes like apathy or hopelessness, problems sleeping, loss of energy, isolation, excessive or loss of appetite, weight gain or loss, and other mental and physical changes. There is no “cure” for depression, but many patients find relief through talk therapy and prescription anti-depressants.
How does cannabis help with depression?
Since depression is different for everyone, the effects of weed for depression are different as well. In a 2015 study from the University of Buffalo’s Institute on Addiction, researchers found that lab rats exposed to stress experienced depleted endocannabinoid levels. Endocannabinoids work within the nervous system and control functions like sleep, mood, emotions, cognitive behavior, appetite, sex drive, and pain.
The cannabinoids in the cannabis plant work with endocannabinoid receptors by either boosting their signal to the brain or boosting diminishing levels. Patients suffering from chronic illnesses sometimes experience depression as a result of the incurable pain, which can affect the quality of life. Sometimes a dose of a pain-relieving cannabis strain is enough to alleviate symptoms and lift the spirits.
However, the research between weed and depression is still in its early stages, and some say long-term use can make depression worse. It’s always important to talk to your doctor about your circumstances to decide what’s right for your body.
CBD vs THC
Both of the most potent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, CBD and THC, have effects on depression symptoms. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high, so it’s great for uplifting the mood. In some instances, however, the effects of a THC-heavy sativa can cause anxiety.
CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid with all the medical effects. If your depression causes physical pain, tension, or migraines, high-CBD strains or CBD oil may provide relief without psychoactive effects. CBD is one of the most medicinally potent cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Read more about the differences between CBD and THC in our Cannabis 101 post.
Cannabis strains for depression
If you’re looking for the right strain of weed for depression, first consider whether you want something higher in THC or CBD. If you want the uplifting cerebral effects, opt for a sativa with high terpene levels. These strains tend to have a citrusy smell like Pineapple Express, Lemonberry, and Jack Herer. These are also known for relieving pain and causing fits of uncontrollable laughter. Who couldn’t use more of that?
If you’re concerned that uplifting sativa strains like Pineapple Express will give you anxiety, opt for a strain higher in CBD like Charlotte’s Web or Cannatonic. These are great for pain relief and easing you into a feeling of calm. Find more high-CBD strains in our list of the most popular CBD strains of 2017.
If anxiety and insomnia are keeping you restless, a calming indica like Granddaddy Purple is a great choice. For something a little stronger, a heavy indica like 9 Pound Hammer, Double OG, or Tahoe OG Kush will ease you into a restful night of sleep.