According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 21 million American adults experienced at least one depressive episode in 2020. That figure equates to over 8% of the U.S. adult population.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression, a leading cause of disability. While regular treatments such as therapy and medication remain popular, some contemplate CBD as a possible solution.
An increasing body of evidence suggests that CBD may be an effective method of helping with depression. Moreover, CBD is less likely to cause the negative side effects associated with traditional medication. Keep reading to learn more about depression and to discover whether CBD is a viable solution.
What Is Depression?
Although depression is a complex disorder, one can describe it as a medical illness that negatively impacts how someone feels, thinks, and acts. As well as causing profound sadness, depression prevents individuals from enjoying activities they once loved. If left untreated, depression can lead to various physical and emotional problems and reduce a person’s capacity to function at home and work.
There are many depression symptoms, and not everyone will have the same ones. Here is a list of some of the most common:
- A feeling of worthlessness or guilt.
- Feeling extremely sad and negative.
- Significant changes in appetite; either eating too much or too little.
- Either sleeping too much or having difficulties sleeping.
- Noticeable loss of energy (or obvious instances of fatigue).
- No longer taking pleasure in things one used to enjoy.
- An inability to concentrate, think or make decisions.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Someone must typically display five or more of these symptoms to be diagnosed with depression.
Living with Depression
Depression can manifest itself in various ways depending on the behavioral nature of each individual. But there are several medically recognized forms of depression, which include the following:
- Major depression
- Bipolar depression
- Chronic depression
- Psychotic depression
- Seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD or seasonal depression)
- Postpartum depression
- Substance-induced mood disorder (SIMD)
The type of depression someone has dictates how they can cope, but typically, individuals with depression can also have illnesses related to the condition. For example, it isn’t unusual for patients with depression to have physical symptoms such as back pain and joint pain. The brain chemicals that influence mood (norepinephrine and serotonin) also affect our perception of pain.
DID YOU KNOW: People with depression are more likely to commit suicide. Anywhere between 30-70% of people who commit suicide have major depression or some form of bipolar disorder.
Those who suffer from the condition describe it as “living with a massive weight on their chest.” Sometimes, someone with depression wants to get up and do something, but they simply can’t. First and foremost, if someone receives a diagnosis of depression, they must take it seriously rather than trying to “shake it off.”
Secondly, the individual must seek help and support; they need to realize that they’re not alone during this difficult time. However, it is often the case where the individual’s friends or family must spot the symptoms and intervene. Also, those who seek treatment should keep an open mind. There are many ways to combat depression, and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach.
Traditional Depression Treatments (That Don’t Involve CBD)
Depression is no different from any other illness insofar as treatment should be tailored to an individual’s specific diagnosis. The goal of any treatment plan is to help a person manage the symptoms and hopefully reduce them over time. However, the most common forms of treatment, regardless of the form of depression, are psychotherapy and medication.
Psychotherapy as a Treatment for Depression
There are a variety of treatment techniques involved in psychotherapy for depression. Typically, patients speak to a licensed and trained therapist who helps them identify and work through the issues causing the depression.
The goal of psychotherapy is to help patients understand the various aspects of the issues causing the condition. It also helps them restructure the way they think, regain a sense of control and pleasure in life, and learn problem-solving and coping skills.
Prescription Medication as a Treatment for Depression
Research suggests that medications such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work well in terms of helping people with depression and anxiety disorders. However, such medications could result in unwanted side effects.
For example, while SSRIs are inarguably effective at increasing serotonin levels in the body, few people realize that too much serotonin can cause unwanted, potentially fatal side effects (a condition often referred to as serotonin syndrome).
DID YOU KNOW: Over 10% of Americans take anti-depressants. They’re the most commonly used medications among people aged 18 to 44.
Someone with an excessively high level of serotonin could experience symptoms like erratic body temperature, diarrhea, deliria, seizures, heart arrhythmia, and high blood pressure.
The same goes for SNRIs, which are typically prescribed for shorter-term use, given their potential for inducing manic episodes. While SNRIs work similarly to SSRIs in that they increase serotonin levels in the blood, they can also result in a swarm of side effects. In SNRIS, adverse effects such as anxiety, uncontrollable perspiration, and restlessness are more common than in SSRIs.
Furthermore, serious side effects such as liver failure and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon among long-term SNRI users. Additionally, SNRIs and SSRIs can produce severe withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation. Among other things, SNRI withdrawal can include diarrhea, nausea, anxiety/paranoia, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue.
The risk of side effects is just one reason why people with depression look to CBD as a possible alternative.
CBD for Depression: How Does It Work?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, up to 33% of people with depression experience a return of symptoms while on anti-depressants. Moreover, the unpleasant side effects can make it hard to comply with medication regimens.
Small wonder then that people are searching for an alternative form of treatment, and an increasing number of studies suggest that CBD could be the solution. Unlike the cannabis compound THC, which offers relaxation but with intoxicating effects, the CBD found in cannabis provides relief without any form of a debilitating “high.”
CBD acts on the 5-HT1A receptor, the same receptor that binds serotonin, the neurochemical mentioned above that impacts mood.
Can CBD Help with Depression? What the Research Says
A study from 2014 used animal models to show the potential for CBD as an effective anti-depressant. After the subjects in the study received CBD, they were exposed to various complex, stressful scenarios. The researchers observed that the animals who consumed CBD had fewer cases of anxiety and depression-related symptoms.
Another study, published in Neuropharmacology in 2016, investigated the effects of acute and chronic CBD administration in the olfactory bulbectomy mouse model of depression (OBX). The researchers found that the CBD exerted fast anti-depressant effects. The OBX mice that consumed CBD exhibited a reduction in the depressive symptoms of anhedonia (lack of pleasure) and hyperactivity.
Meanwhile, a review of studies published in 2018 found that CBD had anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties. The researchers suggested that CBD has anti-stress effects, which could reduce stress-related depression. However, most of the literature in the review related to CBD’s effects on rodents.
Another review of studies, this time published in 2020, looked into CBD’s effects on humans and animals. The researchers stated that preliminary clinical trials supported the efficacy of CBD as an anxiolytic, anti-depressant, and antipsychotic.
However, they also noted that few studies had included patients diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Generally, the efficacy of cannabidiol for reducing depressive symptoms has mainly been assessed in patients with chronic pain or marijuana users.
Therefore, while CBD holds promise in terms of regulating anxiety and depressive-related behaviors, it is necessary to develop larger human and animal studies to definitively characterize the efficacy and safety of CBD for these conditions.
What Is the Best Way to Take CBD for Depression?
There is no best method of consuming CBD for depression. Indeed, it is illegal for sellers to provide medical advice concerning the cannabinoid or say that it can be used to cure, treat, prevent, or diagnose any medical condition.
With several methods of consumption, it mainly depends on personal preference. Here is what’s available:
- CBD Oils/Tinctures: Using such products involves placing a few drops beneath the tongue, holding the oil there for 60-90 seconds, and swallowing.
- CBD Edibles: Edibles can take up to two hours to produce an effect after consumption.
- CBD Vape Products: There are vaporizers on the market capable of turning special vape juice into a vapor that the user inhales. According to some users, it is the commercial consumption method that offers the fastest effects (within a minute, according to some users) and the highest level of bioavailability.
- CBD Capsules: This is another form of oral consumption and is useful for individuals who dislike the taste or texture of CBD oil. As the name suggests, this product consists of CBD liquid inside a casing designed to be easy to swallow.
- CBD Topicals: Available in different forms such as creams, lotions, and ointments, topicals are rubbed into the skin. These products are mainly used by individuals seeking pain relief.
Although CBD oil remains the most popular product, individuals with depression sometimes prefer vaping because of the fast effects. Nonetheless, this is not proof that CBD vape products are the most effective option for depression.
Top-rated CBD sellers include:
Final Thoughts About CBD for Depression
Although further research is required, the early indications are that CBD may help combat depression. If this is the case, people living with depression will finally have an alternative to traditional prescription anti-depressants.
While anti-depressant drugs are effective in certain cases, their side effects can range from unpleasant to completely prohibitive. Conversely, to date, there is no evidence that CBD is addictive or dangerous.
Several clinical trials are underway, and if the results are as positive as recent animal testing, the era of relying on traditional anti-depressant medications may be ending. However, we must point out that CBD is not a “cure” for depression or any other medical condition.
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