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CBD For Depression

Depression lies. That’s one of the truths about depression that just about any mental health professional will tell you. When you are dealing with depression, your mind is continually lying to you; telling you that you aren’t enough, that no one cares about you, and that you deserve every bad thing that’s ever happened to you.

It’s a dark, painful state of being to exist in, and that’s exactly why so many people who have struggled with this mood disorder have wondered whether CBD for depression might help.

What is Depression?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depression “is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act” 1 What is Depression? (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression . It is marked by a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe, including:

  • Prolonged sadness or low mood
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought joy
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep irregularities (to include sleeping too much or not enough)
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thinking about death and suicide

One in every six adults will experience depression at some point in their lives, with women more likely to struggle than men. A person can develop depression at any point in their lives, though it is most likely to occur between the late teens and early twenties 1 What is Depression? (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression .

Types of Depression

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) identifies five different types of depression:

Major Depression

Marked by symptoms of depression that endure every day for at least two weeks and impact a person’s ability to perform typical day-to-day tasks.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Symptoms of depression that last at least two years.

Perinatal Depression

Episodes of depression experienced by women during pregnancy and after delivery.

Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD)

Depression that is brought on by the changing of the seasons, typically linked to winter and less sunlight

Psychotic Depression

Depression that occurs alongside some type of psychosis, including delusions and hallucinations.

Each of these types of depression has different triggers and treatment types. The NIH further identifies disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and bipolar disorder as other types of depressive disorders 2 Depression Basics. (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml .

While there is no one common cause of depression, heritability is often a factor, with 40 percent of those struggling with depression having a first-degree relative who also has depression. Other contributing factors include chemical imbalances and environmental trauma 1 What is Depression? (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression .

How Can CBD for Depression Help?

Standard treatment options for depression vary based on the severity of depressive episodes and the effectiveness of non-medication treatment measures, including talk-therapy 3 Duval, F., Lebowitz, B. D., & Macher, J. P. (2006). Treatments in depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(2), 191–206. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.2/fduval . There are a variety of pharmaceutical options that exist, with four main classes of medications to choose from:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

There are also a handful of antidepression medications that don’t fit into the above categories and are otherwise considered atypical antidepressants (including Trazadone) 3 Duval, F., Lebowitz, B. D., & Macher, J. P. (2006). Treatments in depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(2), 191–206. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.2/fduval .

Each of these medications interacts with the patient’s body and brain chemistry in different ways, with the ultimate goal being to balance the chemicals associated with mood 4 Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation. Transforming Clinical Research in the United States: Challenges and Opportunities: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 5, Clinical Trials in Depression. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50890/ . Many of these treatments can be quite successful, but they also come with a host of potential side effects, to include 5 Wang, S. M., Han, C., Bahk, W. M., Lee, S. J., Patkar, A. A., Masand, P. S., & Pae, C. U. (2018). Addressing the Side Effects of Contemporary Antidepressant Drugs: A Comprehensive Review. Chonnam medical journal, 54(2), 101–112. https://doi.org/10.4068/cmj.2018.54.2.101 :

  • Dry mouth
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Seizures
  • Weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular bleeding

While not everyone will experience these side effects, and while many of the reported side effects have been found to ease with continued use, for some patients, the side effects can become harder to deal with than the depression itself. It’s no wonder these patients turn to CBD for depression, hoping to find relief without the side effects.

With decades of research pointing to the CBD’s therapeutic benefits, including the antipsychotic and neuroprotective properties of this cannabinoid, it’s a hope that may very well pay off 6 Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 2009. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009 . Especially considering the fact that CBD has a relatively high safety profile, with limited side effects to contend with 7 Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034 .

What Does the Research Say?

As two of the antidepressant medication classes would imply, it is believed that low serotonin levels are often connected to depression 8 Cowen, P. J., & Browning, M. (2015). What has serotonin to do with depression?. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(2), 158–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20229 . This is relevant because CBD has been shown to interact with serotonin receptors 9 De Gregorio, D., McLaughlin, R. J., Posa, L., Ochoa-Sanchez, R., Enns, J., Lopez-Canul, M., Aboud, M., Maione, S., Comai, S., & Gobbi, G. (2019). Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain, 160(1), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001386 .

While our understanding of this interaction is still evolving, it explains why additional research has found CBD to have antidepressant-like effects and anti-anxiety-like effects in animal studies 10 de Mello Schier, A. R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N. P., Coutinho, D. S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrión, O., Crippa, J. A., Zuardi, A. W., Nardi, A. E., & Silva, A. C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 13(6), 953–960. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838 .

Further research has found that low-dose CBD treatment continued over time can have both anti-depression and anti-anxiety impacts when used to treat neuropathic pain 9 De Gregorio, D., McLaughlin, R. J., Posa, L., Ochoa-Sanchez, R., Enns, J., Lopez-Canul, M., Aboud, M., Maione, S., Comai, S., & Gobbi, G. (2019). Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain, 160(1), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001386 . And a 2020 review of all existing research concluded CBD to be a favorable recommendation for the treatment of several mental health disorders 11 Khan, R., Naveed, S., Mian, N. et al. The therapeutic role of Cannabidiol in mental health: a systematic review. J Cannabis Res 2, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-019-0012-y .

Nearly all existing research in this area agrees there is a need for further studies as we work to improve our understanding of CBD’s mental health impacts. But what we know so far indicates the potential benefits of using CBD for depression.

How Does CBD Compare to Antidepressant Medications?

There’s no denying there is a great deal more research and clinical data promoting the effectiveness of traditional antidepressant medications compared to CBD. These drugs have been in use for over fifty years, and have been used to treat countless patients in that time 12 InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/ . Research has shown us traditional antidepressants have a 40 to 60 percent success rate in treatment settings, while no such research exists (as of yet) for CBD and depression 13 InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/ .

Still, additional research has shown as many as 38 percent of people experience side effects from taking traditional antidepressants 14 Cascade, E., Kalali, A. H., & Kennedy, S. H. (2009). Real-World Data on SSRI Antidepressant Side Effects. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 6(2), 16–18. . And approximately 10 to 30 percent of patients experience something called treatment-resistant depression, where traditional antidepressants simply don’t seem to work 15 Al-Harbi K. S. (2012). Treatment-resistant depression: therapeutic trends, challenges, and future directions. Patient preference and adherence, 6, 369–388. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S29716 .

Meanwhile, CBD has relatively limited and mild side effects 7 Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034 . In fact, when used alongside traditional antidepressants (under a prescribing physician’s guidance), “CBD 16 Gyires, K., & Zádori, Z. S. (2016). Role of Cannabinoids in Gastrointestinal Mucosal Defense and Inflammation. Current neuropharmacology, 14(8), 935–951. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159×14666160303110150 .

It’s also important to understand how and why traditional antidepressants work. While some are known to raise serotonin levels quickly, most patients still report having to wait anywhere from weeks to months before feeling any improvement 17 Machado-Vieira, R., Baumann, J., Wheeler-Castillo, C., Latov, D., Henter, I. D., Salvadore, G., & Zarate, C. A. (2010). The Timing of Antidepressant Effects: A Comparison of Diverse Pharmacological and Somatic Treatments. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 19–41. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010019 . Researchers believe this lag may be due to the fact that depression can actually cause parts of the brain to atrophy and shrink, while traditional antidepressants seem to stimulate healing and regeneration to those segments 18 Liu, W., Ge, T., Leng, Y., Pan, Z., Fan, J., Yang, W., & Cui, R. (2017). The Role of Neural Plasticity in Depression: From Hippocampus to Prefrontal Cortex. Neural plasticity, 2017, 6871089. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6871089 . This process obviously takes time and explains why patients must wait to experience the therapeutic effects of antidepressants, even though a spike in serotonin levels often occurs right away.

Suppose this theory of how antidepressants work is correct. In that case, there is even more reason to believe CBD could be beneficial in treating depression, as the cannabinoid has proven potentially capable of protecting neurons and promoting neural regeneration in a variety of research settings 20 Capasso A. (2017). Do Cannabinoids Confer Neuroprotection Against Epilepsy? An Overview. The open neurology journal, 11, 61–73. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874205X01711010061 .

There is still a lot more research to be done before CBD can be declared a safe and effective treatment option for depression. But for patients resistant to the use of antidepressants, or those who have found antidepressants to be either non-effective or to have too many side effects, CBD for depression may be a viable alternative worth trying.

How Do I Use CBD For Depression?

If you’ve decided to give CBD for depression a try, you have a variety of options at your disposal. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find CBD edibles that allow you to easily control your dosing throughout the day via the consumption of yummy treats. Or you might decide you would prefer vaping your CBD in order to allow for the quickest effects as you feel stressed or depressed throughout the day.

The easiest and most common method of delivery, however, is CBD oil for depression.

CBD oil tends to be one of the more accessible and affordable options available. And for new users, it is often also the easiest to incorporate into a daily routine as it doesn’t require picking up a new habit (vaping), and the dosage can be controlled with relative simplicity.

Choosing a CBD brand to use often comes down to where you live and what is available to you. We have numerous reviews available for CBD products from reputable brands like Medterra, which offer products like Sleep Tight CBD gummies for a restful sleep, or CBDistillery, that carries Relief & Relax CBD oil in a low or high dose. Because not all CBD products are created equal, we recommend paying special attention to quality assurances, brand character, and customer service when selecting a CBD oil to try.

Deciding how much CBD oil for depression to use can vary quite a bit from person to person. The amount you may need will likely depend on factors such as your height, weight, lifestyle choices, and severity of symptoms. Our advice is always to start low and slowly build up your dose until you begin to feel a therapeutic difference. We have a great dosage chart to help guide you in these decisions as you are start out with CBD products.

Cautions About CBD for Depression

It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor before adding anything new to your daily routine. This is especially true if you take CBD oil for depression alongside other, more traditional antidepressants. Your doctor needs to know what you are taking so that they can monitor for potential interactions and effects.

While some cannabis users may shy away from having this conversation for fear of being judged, remember: your doctor isn’t there to judge you. And with the rise in research and anecdotal evidence surrounding CBD, they are likely more open than you think to seeing if CBD could help you.

Please also remember that there are times when depression warrants immediate medical attention. If you are considering harming yourself or anyone else, text the Crisis Text Line (CONNECT to 741741), call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or visit your local emergency room immediately.

No matter how long you’ve been trying to find relief for your symptoms of depression or how many treatment options you’ve tried—there is always something new that might work when nothing else has. And help is typically just a phone call away.

You matter. And your life, free of depression, is worth fighting for.

CBD for Depression FAQs

How will CBD work for my anxiety and depression?

Research into the benefits of CBD for anxiety and depression is still growing, but what we know so far suggests that CBD can have therapeutic benefits for a variety of mental health conditions. The only way to know for sure whether or not it will work for you is to give it a try (under the guidance of a medical professional).

How much CBD for depression?

Proper dosing of CBD oil for depression varies from person to person. It is always a good idea to start at a level that is likely too low to be beneficial and then work your way up until you experience a therapeutic difference. Our dosage chart can help get you started.

How to use CBD for depression?

Because there is not yet conclusive evidence into how CBD for depression might work best, you have a lot of options in choosing how to use CBD for depression. Whether using it alongside a traditional antidepressant or as the only tool in your depression-fighting arsenal, it is always a good idea to discuss your plans with a doctor and closely monitor your own symptoms as you determine whether or not CBD for depression works for you.

Sources
  1. What is Depression? (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
  2. Depression Basics. (n.d.) Retrieved December 01, 2020 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml
  3. Duval, F., Lebowitz, B. D., & Macher, J. P. (2006). Treatments in depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(2), 191–206. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.2/fduval
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Drug Discovery, Development, and Translation. Transforming Clinical Research in the United States: Challenges and Opportunities: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010. 5, Clinical Trials in Depression. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50890/
  5. Wang, S. M., Han, C., Bahk, W. M., Lee, S. J., Patkar, A. A., Masand, P. S., & Pae, C. U. (2018). Addressing the Side Effects of Contemporary Antidepressant Drugs: A Comprehensive Review. Chonnam medical journal, 54(2), 101–112. https://doi.org/10.4068/cmj.2018.54.2.101
  6. Crippa, J. A., Guimarães, F. S., Campos, A. C., & Zuardi, A. W. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. Frontiers in immunology, 9, 2009. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009
  7. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
  8. Cowen, P. J., & Browning, M. (2015). What has serotonin to do with depression?. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(2), 158–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20229
  9. De Gregorio, D., McLaughlin, R. J., Posa, L., Ochoa-Sanchez, R., Enns, J., Lopez-Canul, M., Aboud, M., Maione, S., Comai, S., & Gobbi, G. (2019). Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain, 160(1), 136–150. https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001386
  10. de Mello Schier, A. R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N. P., Coutinho, D. S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrión, O., Crippa, J. A., Zuardi, A. W., Nardi, A. E., & Silva, A. C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 13(6), 953–960. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
  11. Khan, R., Naveed, S., Mian, N. et al. The therapeutic role of Cannabidiol in mental health: a systematic review. J Cannabis Res 2, 2 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42238-019-0012-y
  12. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/
  13. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/
  14. Cascade, E., Kalali, A. H., & Kennedy, S. H. (2009). Real-World Data on SSRI Antidepressant Side Effects. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 6(2), 16–18.
  15. Al-Harbi K. S. (2012). Treatment-resistant depression: therapeutic trends, challenges, and future directions. Patient preference and adherence, 6, 369–388. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S29716
  16. Gyires, K., & Zádori, Z. S. (2016). Role of Cannabinoids in Gastrointestinal Mucosal Defense and Inflammation. Current neuropharmacology, 14(8), 935–951. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159x14666160303110150
  17. Machado-Vieira, R., Baumann, J., Wheeler-Castillo, C., Latov, D., Henter, I. D., Salvadore, G., & Zarate, C. A. (2010). The Timing of Antidepressant Effects: A Comparison of Diverse Pharmacological and Somatic Treatments. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 19–41. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010019
  18. Liu, W., Ge, T., Leng, Y., Pan, Z., Fan, J., Yang, W., & Cui, R. (2017). The Role of Neural Plasticity in Depression: From Hippocampus to Prefrontal Cortex. Neural plasticity, 2017, 6871089. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6871089
  19. Duman, R. S., Malberg, J., & Thome, J. (1999). Neural plasticity to stress and antidepressant treatment. Biological psychiatry, 46(9), 1181–1191. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0006-3223(99)00177-8
  20. Capasso A. (2017). Do Cannabinoids Confer Neuroprotection Against Epilepsy? An Overview. The open neurology journal, 11, 61–73. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874205X01711010061
  21. Khan, A. A., Shekh-Ahmad, T., Khalil, A., Walker, M. C., & Ali, A. B. (2018). Cannabidiol exerts antiepileptic effects by restoring hippocampal interneuron functions in a temporal lobe epilepsy model. British journal of pharmacology, 175(11), 2097–2115. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.14202
  22. Yücel, M., Lorenzetti, V., Suo, C., Zalesky, A., Fornito, A., Takagi, M. J., Lubman, D. I., & Solowij, N. (2016). Hippocampal harms, protection and recovery following regular cannabis use. Translational psychiatry, 6(1), e710. https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2015.201

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