According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), up to 16 million American adults experienced a ‘depressive episode’ in 2012. That figure equates to almost seven percent of the adult population. Overall, approximately 350 million people around the world suffer from depression which is a leading cause of disability. While regular treatments such as therapy and medication continue to remain popular, CBD is now mooted as a possible solution.
There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that CBD is an effective method of treating depression. Moreover, CBD is less likely to cause the negative side effects associated with traditional medication. Keep reading to learn more about depression and discover whether CBD is a viable form of treatment.
What is Depression?
Although depression is a complex disorder, it can be best described as a medical illness that has a negative impact on how you feel, think and act. As well as causing profound sadness, depression prevents you from enjoying activities you once loved. If left untreated, depression can lead to an array of physical and emotional problems and reduce your capacity to function at home and work.
There are a number of depression symptoms, and not everyone will have the same ones. Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
- 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 you used to enjoy.
- An inability to concentrate, think or make decisions.
- Thoughts of death and suicide.
Medical professionals assert that a person must display at least five of the above symptoms for at least two weeks to be diagnosed with depression.
Living with Depression
- There are several forms of depression including:
- ‘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 you have will dictate how you can cope, but typically, individuals with depression can also have illnesses related to the condition. These ailments include Panic Disorders, Eating Disorders, Phobias and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
It isn’t unusual for patients with depression to have physical symptoms such as back pain, joint pain, sleep changes and gastrointestinal problems. This is because of brain chemicals such as norepinephrine and serotonin which influence mood and pain.
Unfortunately, people with depression are more likely to commit suicide. Anywhere between 30-70% of people who commit suicide have major depression or bipolar disorder.
Those who suffer from the condition describe it as ‘living with a massive weight on your chest’. There are times when you want to get up and do something but you simply can’t. First and foremost, if you receive a diagnosis of depression, take it seriously and don’t try to ‘shake it off.’ Secondly, make sure you seek help and support; it is vital to realize that you’re not alone during this difficult time.
When seeking treatment, don’t limit your options. There is an increasing number of ways to combat depression because there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Traditional Treatment That Don’t Involve CBD
Depression is no different to any other illness insofar as treatment should be tailored to an individual 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.
There is a variety of treatment techniques involved in therapy. Typically, patients speak to a licensed and trained therapist who helps them identify and work through the issues that are causing the depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) replaces negative thought patterns with realistic and more positive ones.
The goal of therapy is to help patients understand the various aspects of the issues that are causing the condition. It also helps them to restructure the way they think, regain a sense of control and pleasure in life and learn problem-solving and coping skills.
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. Over 10% of Americans take antidepressants, and it is the most commonly used medication for people aged 18 to 44.
CBD for Depression
As we mentioned above, a huge number of Americans take antidepressants, but these drugs are not always effective. In fact, an estimated 33% of depression sufferers admit that medication does not offer relief. Also, antidepressants can cause some fairly unpleasant side effects.
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 compound THC in marijuana, which offers relaxation but with psychoactive reactions, the CBD found in cannabis provides relief without a debilitating ‘high.’
We have an endocannabinoid system that responds to the cannabinoids found in marijuana. Our main endocannabinoid receptor is known as the CB1 receptor and is found throughout the nervous system and also in the brain. Decades of research suggests that depression is attributable to a chemical imbalance in the brain and moreover, the condition is rooted in our nervous system.
The body of evidence that supports CBD as a viable alternative to antidepressants is growing. Admittedly, testing has yet to be performed on humans, but initial experiments on lab rats and other animals have yielded encouraging results.
A 2010 study involved treating OBX mice with CBD. The results were astounding; not only did the mice show almost immediate improvements, but their hyperactivity also stopped within 30 minutes. Remember, hyperactivity is a common depression symptom in humans.
Another study, this time in 2014, used animal models as a means of showing the potential for CBD to be used as an effective antidepressant. After they were treated with CBD, the animal models went through a variety of complex and stressful scenarios. The animals that consumed CBD had fewer cases of anxiety and depression.
Final Thoughts About CBD for Depression
Although there is admittedly a lot of research that must be completed, early signs are good. If CBD is an effective antidepressant, it is excellent news for patients with depression that are forced to take medication. While drugs are effective in certain cases, the long-term side effects are occasionally dangerous. Also, antidepressants are exceedingly expensive and the adverse side effects from trying to ‘wean’ yourself off the drug range from mild to severe.
To date, there is no evidence that CBD has any negative side effects. It is only a matter of time before human studies are performed; and if the results are as positive as testing on animals, the era of potentially harmful SSRIs could come to an end. Imagine a scenario where the world’s most effective antidepressant is growing all around us!
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