Raw and Open: Depression and Medical Marijuana

Guest Author: Jody Betty

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

Many people experience depression and often try to treat it with anti-depressants or other related medications.

Some are weary of medications and stick strictly to therapy and yet others find the combination of the two the way to go. Treatment is highly individualistic and often becomes a game of trial and error. There are people who also seek alternative medicine in the form of medical marijuana.

It has been legal for a few years here in Canada to get a medical marijuana card and there are numerous physical conditions which may qualify you, however, with the legalization of marijuana in Canada in 2018, the debate over its use for mental health purposes rages on. This deliberation has been ongoing for centuries, and it is reported that as early as 1621, doctors in India were using cannabis in the treatment of depression, and in 1887 an American physician and professor celebrated the ability of cannabis to subdue restlessness and anxiety.

I am just speaking from my experience.

Marijuana first entered my life when I was about 12 years old, and my mother was going through chemotherapy from breast cancer. The side effects in the 1980s were beyond description as compared to today and after each treatment came days of sickness and severe nausea.

The medications prescribed to treat the side effects caused their own problems, often worse than the ones from the chemotherapy. She had gotten a new, young oncologist who had suggested that marijuana had been known to help with nausea and if she was open to the idea, to give it a shot. So, I got some cannabis for my mom and we started at first by adding it to her protein shakes, then using it in baked goods and we noticed not only less nausea but an increase in appetite as well. The doctor also noted that certain strains would help with the anxiety and depression that comes with being terminally ill, and so we played around until we found a combination that helped to ease some of those symptoms as well.

That is just my story and I am not endorsing the use of cannabis nor am I speaking against it, I am just speaking from my experience.

There does not appear to be enough conclusive evidence of its efficacy or lack thereof, in the treatment of certain mental illnesses as of yet, and in most cases, it still does not have the backing of most physicians due to the controversy surrounding marijuana’s role in depression because of a seemingly consistent correlation between the two. Of the studies that have been done, many seem to reach the same conclusion; that it is unlikely that cannabis itself leads to depression, and more likely that those who suffer from depression and anxiety use marijuana to self-medicate. 

In fact, some researchers have found that low doses of cannabis increased serotonin levels in the brain, which helps to improve mood, while higher doses of cannabis tended to increase symptoms of depression because the serotonin levels were depleted.  There is also the theory that cannabis has been shown to improve depressive symptoms by stimulating the endocannabinoid system and its receptors which are located in the brain and are involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

Cannabis may also have less or milder side effects as compared to many of the anti-depressants prescribed.

Treatment is completely individualistic.

Pro cannabis people say that as long as the strain is correct and the dosage is accurate, marijuana can be a very effective treatment for stress, depression and anxiety by allowing the person to either focus on the situation objectively or by offering peace of mind enough to forget it for a while. It can be used in a hurry by smoking or vaping or maintained with patches, capsules or edibles.

Best of all, withdrawal symptoms are comparatively minor and it does not require a weaning off process as compared to most anti-depressants., however, as it stands, there simply isn’t enough research to assert that cannabis definitively improves depression. Depending on the strain and the dosage, the effects of cannabis on mental disease is largely variable, but that doesn’t mean that marijuana shouldn’t be used to treat depression and anxiety if the individual prefers it. In much the same way a person is encouraged to shop around for the ideal antidepressant, so, too, should they be allowed to choose cannabis

Personally, I have dabbled with different cannabis strains for my depression as much as I have had to dabble with multiple depression medications before finding something that works.

Treatment is completely individualistic and you should do whatever works for you and if cannabis is a part of that treatment plan then you should have the right to choose that option.

Jody Betty is a guest blogger for SickNotWeak who, in her own words, is a master at the art of survival. She lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and is co-afflicted with MDD, Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She has survived three serious suicide attempts and a handful of overdoses which lets her know it isn’t her time. You can read her blog “Raw and Open” posted bi-weekly on Thursdays on SNW.

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