Study Finds Medical Marijuana May Help Treat Depression and Anxiety, Improve Sleep
A recent study of people diagnosed with clinical depression found that those who used medical marijuana had lower depression scores than those who did not use cannabis. The researchers also determined that study participants who started using medicinal cannabis during a follow-up period saw a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, according to statistics from the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, making it one of the most debilitating medical conditions in the world. In the United States, generalized anxiety disorder affects up to 4% of the population, or up to 9 million people nationwide.
“Anxiety and depressive disorders are very common,” Erin L. Martin, lead author of the study and holder of a doctorate. candidate at the University of Medicine of South Carolina, Recount PsyPost. “Traditional antidepressants can effectively treat these disorders in many people, but they don’t work for everyone and can have unpleasant side effects.”
As an alternative to commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals, many people with anxiety and depression turn to cannabis products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), or a combination of the two cannabinoids. However, the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cannabis products in treating symptoms of anxiety and depression has not been conclusive.
“We conducted this study to find out whether people who used medicinal cannabis products to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression reported improvement in these symptoms, as well as in other important areas such as sleep and quality of life, compared to people who did not use medicinal cannabis. “, explained Martin.
To lead the to study, which was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, the researchers recruited a group of participants who reported suffering from depression, anxiety, or both. Of these, 368 were medical cannabis users, while 170 said they did not use it for medical purposes but were considering doing so.
During a baseline assessment, participants answered questions about their cannabis use and completed assessments that measure anxiety, depression, recent pain, quality of life, and quality of sleep. Participants were asked to perform follow-up assessments every three months over a three-year period. People enrolled in the study completed an average of two assessments during the research.
Of the study participants, 34% reported having anxiety, 15% reported suffering from depression, and 51% reported having both conditions. More than two-thirds (69%) also reported having a chronic pain disorder. CBD-dominant cannabis products were the most popular, with 82% of study participants reporting their use. Almost a quarter (23%) said they had used THC products, 7% said they had used products with an equal balance of THC and CBD, and 5% had used cannabis products containing a minor cannabinoid.
Cannabis users had lower levels of depression
Participants who initially used cannabis, especially high-CBD products, reported lower levels of depression than non-users. Those who used cannabis also reported better quality of life, better sleep in the past month, less pain in the past month, and were more likely to have symptoms of depression that were below their level. clinical concern.
Anxiety levels did not differ between cannabis users and non-users at the start of the study. Participants who were not cannabis users at the start of the research but who started using cannabis for medical purposes during the follow-up period showed reductions in depression and anxiety, as well as improvements. quality of life.
“Medicinal cannabis products, especially products rich in CBD, can help treat symptoms of depression, improve sleep and increase quality of life,” Martin said. “There is also some evidence that medicinal cannabis can relieve symptoms of anxiety, particularly if given over an extended period of time, but this is less clear from our results and merits further study.”
More studies needed
The authors of the small study pointed to several limitations of the research, including the reliance on self-report and other factors, and recommended further investigation to explore efficacy and dosage.
“This is an observational study in a convenience sample, so it is possible that the results we observed were partly due to a placebo effect or to the fact that people are more likely to complete the study if they are. they find that medicinal cannabis products effectively treat their symptoms, ”Martin explained.
“Randomized, placebo-controlled trials of the antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of medicinal cannabis are needed,” she added. Also, it is still not clear how people should dose medicinal cannabis products in order to achieve the best effect (how much? How long? What cannabinoid content?). This should also be explored in future. research. “
The study, “Antidepressant and Anxiolytic Effects of Medicinal Cannabis Use in an Observational Trial,” was published by the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry last month.