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The Link Between Marijuana and Depression: A Uniquely Coloradan Issue

If you Google Marijuana and depression, you’re going to see about 20 articles claiming “it’s a cure!” That sort of cure-all and simplistic attitude isn’t the most scientifically accurate.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t really help some people – and really hurt others. There’s a different treatment plan for everyone and we’re willing to discuss your options.

Want a guide into what the confusing and sometimes contradicting science says? Read on below.

A Short Disclaimer

In this article, we’re discussing scientific research. We did not conduct this research, though we did look closely at the results of the studies.

As is common with science, some of the evidence contradicts itself from one study to another. If you’re questioning whether you should treat your depression with medical marijuana, talk to someone first.

Marijuana is, in no way, a cure for depression. The only cure for depression is therapy, hard work, and sometimes brain-altering chemicals. It can, however, help treat depression in some people.

And in others, it can make depression worse. It’s all about your particular body chemistry and even the strains you try. Learn more below.

Marijuana and Depression

When you think of someone who’s high, what do you think of? If you live in Denver, your answer is probably very different from someone in, say, Tennessee.

But think back, before everyone you knew had a vape pen in their pocket. It was either someone giggling uncontrollably or acting semi-lifeless on the couch, right?

If you’re a connoisseur or simply know the differences between Indica and Sativa, you know those are simply two different kinds of highs.

What we see in patients that use marijuana for depression matches that image. Some people, no matter the strain they smoke, that are always the can’t-move-from-the-couch types.

Then there are those who get giggly even on the strongest of Indica blends. Each person is different.

And without diving too far into the science, if you’re the giggly type, treating depression with marijuana may be for you. However, if you get silent and introspective when you’re high, that may not be the best choice.

You can easily go from watching a show to thinking about all the reasons you’re depressed. And when you’re high and stuck on the couch, you usually don’t reason with yourself to go on a walk or otherwise get out of your head.

The Paradox

If you looked at marijuana as a substance, knowing nothing else about it, then you’d see it’s classified as a depressant. As is alcohol, even though it has the opposite effect on some people.

Generally, we don’t recommend using a depressant to treat depression. As you can put together, depression plus a depressant usually leads to more depression.

But somehow, marijuana is disproving that.

It may have to do with the coexistence of depression and pain symptoms. In a study, researchers found that pain and depression coexist in 80% of their sample size.

When you consider the effects chronic pain can have on the mood and brain, the idea of marijuana helping starts to make sense.

The Brain, On Pain

Imagine that you have some sort of chronic pain condition. Everything hurts, including getting out of bed in the morning. Would you wake up ready to face the day?

No, you’d be filled with dread of another pain-filled day. And if your pain persists as you sleep, then being tired is another reason for a low or bad mood.

Basically, chronic pain is awful and it can affect many aspects of your life. To make it even worse, this potent combination of pain and depression often doesn’t react to classic depression treatments.

The study we cited before thinks that the combination of illnesses effects endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors exist naturally in the body, whether you use marijuana or not.

To bring this all full circle, what did medical marijuana first get famous for treating? That’s right – chronic discomfort and pain. Why? We think it’s because cannabis can attach to those tricky cannabinoid receptors.

If you want to read more about that study, you can get a preview of it here.

The Treatment Plan

As we said in the beginning, everyone is different. How one person uses marijuana to treat their depression is different than someone else. But here’s an example of how a treatment plan could work.

If you have chronic pain and depression, your body isn’t making endocannabinoids. Those are organic molecules your body creates that bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors.

They aid the body with things like white blood cell creation and peripheral nervous system functioning.

If your body isn’t making its own endocannabinoids or it’s not making enough, you can supplement by using marijuana. But not just any strain.

Researchers at a Canadian university found that the higher the THC is in a strain, the less helpful it is for depression. So look for strains that have a good mix of THC and CBD.

Want some suggestions? You can ask your local budtender. Tell them you’re looking for something low THC that can treat chronic pain and improve mood.

Try a few different strains and see what works for you.

Don’t Go at it Alone – Check In

If you’re suffering from depression, you should be seeing a therapist. And if you have depression and chronic pain, it’s even more important!

As therapists who practice in Denver, CO, we understand some of our patients experiment with marijuana and depression. And we’re ok with it as long as you’re 1. legal and 2. using it in a safe fashion.

But don’t leave it out of our discussions. Let us know that you’re trying to treat your depression with marijuana. Tell us how it’s working for you.

We can create a plan together to help you keep track of your results, as part of our overarching therapy plan.

We’re here to help – however, both you and our therapists think is best. Talk to someone today.


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