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Can Cannabis Help Treat Depression and Anxiety?

More scientific studies have focused on what cannabis can and can't do for those suffering from mental health issues

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As interest in medical marijuana and CBD skyrockets, more scientific studies have focused on what cannabis can and can’t do for those suffering from various conditions. Two of the areas of focus have been the treatment of depression and anxiety.

It’s research people tend to pay attention to because of how widespread these issues are worldwide. For example, the World Health Organization estimates that 264 million people have clinical depression. As for anxiety, more than 40 million people over the age of 18 reports suffering from anxiety in the United States alone.

As stories about the use of weed to treat both issues have spread, more people than ever are interested in medical marijuana. A 2017 survey found that 81 percent of Americans believe cannabis has at least one medical benefit. Of those, 47 percent listed relief from anxiety, stress, and depression as one of the most common benefits.

Another study from Syracuse University found that the most common uses of medical marijuana by users were relief from pain (64 percent), anxiety (50 percent), and depression (34 percent).

RELATED: Does Marijuana Lower the Effects of Antidepressants?


Research into cannabis treatment of depression is in its early stages.

Because of the lack of research into this area, only a handful of studies have looked specifically into the impact of cannabis on depression and anxiety. Some of them have received a great deal of attention.

One of those is a 2014 review of studies from Brazil that found using CBD on animals had an antidepressant effect. Another came in 2015 from the University of Buffalo, where researchers found THC can potentially restore normal endocannabinoid functioning in those experiencing depression, helping to alleviate some of the condition’s worst symptoms.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found cannabis “significantly reduced” depression, anxiety, and stress among test subjects. Researchers also reported that “low THC/high CBD” cannabis produced the best results. However, the improvements were only in the short-term. The study found no long-term benefit.

RELATED: How Marijuana Can Help Combat Obesity

Using CBD and low-dose THC to treat anxiety.

The information on anxiety is slightly more straightforward, although more research is needed. In an interview with Healthline, Sarah Peace, a licensed counselor in Olympia, Wash., said she has patients who have had success using cannabis and CBD to treat anxiety. She said the most common benefits reported by patients include feeling calmer, improved relaxation, and better sleep.

As for specific conditions, Peace said that she had seen good results, particularly with patients who want to relieve symptoms of agoraphobia, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, phobias, and anxiety-related sleep disorders.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago studied the impact of THC on the anxiety felt before a public speaking task. They found that low-dose THC reduced anxiety but increased levels of THC - enough to feel the high-raised anxiety in some cases.

As for CBD and anxiety, a study published in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD reduced anxiety behaviors in PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

With changes allowing more growers in the U.S. to supply marijuana for research purposes, the use of cannabis to treat depression and anxiety is likely to become one of the significant areas of focus.

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