Depression as a Mental Illness: How Medical Marijuana Could Help | cannabisMD

Depression as a Mental Illness: How Medical Marijuana Could Help

depression mental illness medical marijuana

Depression is medically known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression. It is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that impact how you feel, think and handle basic activities such as sleeping, eating, and/or working. To be diagnosed with depression your symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

Some types of depression develop under unique circumstances including:

  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): Involves a depressed mood which lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with a persistent depressive disorder can have major depressive episodes with intersections of less severe depression but symptoms must be present consistently for two years.
  • Postpartum depression is a serious mental health disorder (much more than the common “baby blues” of relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that clear within two weeks post delivery). Patients experience depression after giving birth. Patients with postpartum experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery.
  • Psychotic depression happens when a person has a severe major depressive disorder and some form of psychosis, such as having delusions or hallucinations. The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive theme for example delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
  • Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during winter months. This occurs when there are less natural sunlight and vitamin D. This depression normally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression returns annually in seasonal affective disorder. Depression is typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep and weight gain.
  • Bipolar disorder and bipolar depression is not the same thing as major depressive disorder but fits the criteria for major depression during bipolar depression stages. But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences mania or hypomania as extreme highs of anger or euphoria.

Other depressive disorders have now been added to the diagnostic classifications within DSM-5, including disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (diagnosed in children and adolescents) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression

If you are experiencing some of the following symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks you may be suffering from depression, including:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment.

If you think you may have depression mental health professionals will be best equipped to help you. You may also inform your doctor to get a reference or be prescribed some staple antidepressants. It is recommended you speak to mental health professionals for ongoing talk therapy and treatment. You will be more likely to develop depression if you have:

  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Major life changes, trauma, or stress
  • Certain medical illnesses, medical conditions, or mental disorders
  • Take certain medications
  • Substance abuse issues

Conventional Treatments And Therapies

Depression is treatable, even in the most severe cases. Depression is conventionally treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. If these do not reduce symptoms, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies may be recommended by a doctor or psychiatrist. There is no one-size-fits-all for treatment.

Antidepressants commonly refer to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Difference variants of these medications can work to treat depression in different people; however, they are known for their long side effect lists.

In some cases, there is an increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour in the patient, particularly within the first few weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns to watch any patient on an antidepressant particularly in the first few weeks of treatment. If you begin taking an antidepressant, do not stop taking it before speaking to your doctor. This can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

Treating Depression Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana for people with depression may alleviate symptoms. Studies have shown mood stabilizing effects of medical cannabis, as the endocannabinoid system is tied to serotonin and emotional wellbeing. Cannabinoids are naturally produced chemical compounds in the brain able to impact motor control, cognition, emotions, and behaviour.

The University of Buffalo, in a 2015 study, found a positive effect from medical marijuana on symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who had depressive symptoms from experiencing chronic stressful situations like war or abuse. If you have anxiety, in addition to depression, a lower THC strain with higher CBD may be more effective. Ingesting cannabis in food is also less likely to cause paranoia.

Currently, data is inclusive and more studies are currently being done to understand how medical marijuana can be used to treat mental health disorders. You can get marijuana to treat depression in states that have full legalization such as Alaska, Oregon, California, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8355 for help. Always consult a trusted physician and learn your state laws before using medical cannabis products.

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