Depression and Cannabis: An Op-Ed for Depression Awareness Month

Written by BlackbirdGo October 27, 2018
The Plant

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.

October is Depression Awareness Month. There is absolutely no shame in suffering from depression; in 2016 alone, it was estimated that 16.2 million adults had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults. It can begin at any age and affect people of all races. Despite its commonality, many people fail to get or receive the help they need. Obstacles surrounding effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained healthcare providers, and social misconceptions associated with mental disorders. Incorrect assessment is also a giant barrier. In places of varying income levels, people who are depressed are often not accurately diagnosed, and people who don’t have a disorder are too often misdiagnosed and prescribed antidepressants without proper analysis. In order to overcome these hurdles, we as a society need to acknowledge that depression exists and learn how to recognize its symptoms.

What is Depression?

Depression is super complex and comes in many forms. There is no known cure, and understanding the causes and symptoms are extremely important for adequate treatment. It can be mild, moderate, chronic, and it can become a serious health issue if it’s long lasting with severe intensity. People who suffer from it usually experience decreased productivity, reduced appetite, insomnia, and an inability to feel happiness or pleasure.

-Major depression is landmarked by symptoms lasting six months or more.
-Dysthymia is characterized by at least two years of mild depression, with some stable periods in between.
-Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depressive episode triggered by seasonal changes; typically, SAD starts and ends around the same time every year.
-Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is defined by fast mood changes, backed by hyperactivity, impulsive and dangerous behavior, and insomnia. Mania and depression are experienced episodically, and they shape which bipolar disorder is diagnosed.

This list is hardly comprehensive, but these are fairly common examples. People who are exposed to abuse, struggle, seclusion, loss, serious illness, stress, genetic predisposition, or substance abuse are at risk of developing any or multiple forms of depression. Everyone experiences symptoms differently, but they often result in despair and guilt. Basic day-to-day life tasks can become agonizing, familial and social relationships can potentially suffer, and functional productivity at work can become nonexistent. Ultimately, these can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. Suicide is the 7th leading cause of death in Nevada, with one person dying by suicide every thirteen hours in the state.

How Can Cannabis Help?

In a major study performed by the University Medical Center Utrecht, it was determined that “THC administration reduces the negative bias in emotional processing. This adds human evidence to support the hypothesis that the endocannabinoid system is involved in modulation of emotional processing. Our findings also suggest a possible role for the endocannabinoid system in abnormal emotional processing, and may thus be relevant for psychiatric disorders such as major depression.” Cannabis is a fast-acting option if you live in a state where you can qualify to retrieve a medical card or if you live in a state that has authorized the recreational use of cannabis by adults over 21 years of age. Consumption is customizable, with a multitude of products and ways to dose at different levels, including how much THC and CBD you wish to intake. These natural alternatives combat stress by augmenting mood, providing energy and concentration, relieving anxiety, stimulating hunger, and helping with sleep issues.

Is Cannabis My Answer?

Nothing is definitive at this point. More research and in-depth studies need to be executed in order to fully understand how cannabis interacts with our brain chemistry. Furthermore, in most states, depression is not considered a qualifying condition to obtain a cannabis recommendation. The push for legalization country-wide will definitely have an impact on current and future scientific research and that, at the very least, holds exciting medical promise. The only way to really know if cannabis can be utilized in your treatment is to seek medical advice. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment can be dangerous walking grounds if you don’t have any medical training. While CBD has been shown to improve difficult-to-treat negative symptoms and cognitive impairment found in schizophrenic patients, THC exposure can cause psychotic episodes immediately after consumption.If you’re not aware of your medical history or what might affect you both cognitively and physically, you’re taking a risk. Additionally, cannabis might not be your only treatment option. A medical professional will be able to assess your needs, provide you with therapy options, and steer you in the direction to determine what is right for you.

For Your Health

Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Nevada ranks 6th nationally for its suicide rate. Three times as many people die by suicide in Nevada annually than by homicide. If you think you’re suffering from depression, please, know that you are not alone. Depression Awareness Month exists to educate, elevate, and force people to acknowledge and participate in solutions to this very real problem many of us are experiencing. You don’t have to feel guilty or remain silent. Even if you think these feelings are temporary, please voice them. We need each other now more than ever.

Depression and Suicide Resources:

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
If depression is leading to suicidal thoughts, call the National Hopeline to connect with a depression treatment center in your area.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
This national hotline is a valuable resource for people whose depression has escalated to suicidal or other harmful thoughts. The network of crisis centers provide emotional support and guidance to people in distress.

Trans Lifeline: US 877-565-8860 / Canada 877-330-6366
Trans Lifeline is a national trans-led organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of the community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Their vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid.