In the last few years, there have been several advances in the determination of the role of the endocannabinoid system in the etiology of depression and the functional actions of antidepressant drugs.
Specifically, a deficiency in endocannabinoid signaling is sufficient to produce a “depressive-like” phenotype at the preclinical level (including changes in rewarding, emotional and cognitive behavior and biological changes such as increased HPA axis activity, impaired stress adaptation, reduced neurogenesis and altered serotonin negative feedback), and capable of inducing symptoms of depression in humans at a clinical level.
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Some of the main points covered within the study relate to:
In line with these findings, clinical populations diagnosed with depression are found to have reduced levels of circulating endocannabinoids and preclinical models of depression reveal a deficit in central endocannabinoid signaling.
Moreover, facilitation of endocannabinoid signaling is sufficient to produce all of the behavioral and biochemical effects of conventional antidepressant treatments. Furthermore, many forms of antidepressant treatments significantly alter endocannabinoid signaling, and in some of these cases this recruitment of endocannabinoid signaling is involved in the neuroadaptive effects of these treatments.
Ultimately, these findings present a compelling picture of the putative role of the endocannabinoid system in the processes subserving both the development and treatment of depression.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is seen in many areas of the brain and is responsible for balancing many functions including memory, emotions, learning, and perceived stress. The ECS is directly involved in mood and mood related disorders. Studies have shown that phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) may modify the ECS in psychiatric disorders.
The study shown, demonstrated how the endocannabinoid system has specific receptors known as CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor, when these receptors miscommunicate we see the symptoms of mood disorders. Cannabidiol has been shown to be effective in affecting the CB1 and CB2 receptors resulting in similar results when using modern medications (antidepressants).
In brain scans such as fMRI, CBD was shown to block “the induction of psychiatric symptoms in induced by intravenous THC”. This means that CBD shows positive effects of reducing mood disorder symptoms without the psychoactive effects that THC induces. Cannabidiol may not only decrease the symptoms associated with depression, but also decrease the length of depressive episodes.