Does cannabis help with depression

Depression and Marijuana: What to Know

Written by Emily Delzell

In this Article

  • Marijuana Use Can Cause Problems
  • Marijuana May Ease Symptoms of Depression
  • Bottom Line

Marijuana use and depression often go hand in hand. If you have depression, you’re twice as likely to use marijuana than someone who doesn’t have it. Marijuana use in the United States is rising in general, but it’s growing faster among people with depression. Widespread legalization is likely part of the reason.

With medical and recreational use legal in many states, marijuana (cannabis) is easier to get than ever before. Easy, legal access may make the drug seem safer.

Although many people with depression use marijuana, scientists don’t think the drug causes the mood disorder. Instead, recent research suggests that people with the condition use it to treat their symptoms. Relief from those symptoms is one of the most common reasons people say they use marijuana.

Some research shows marijuana can help you feel better if you have depression, particularly in the short term. But the FDA hasn’t approved medical marijuana for treatment of depression.

If you or a loved one has depression, here’s what to know about marijuana’s potential risks and benefits.

Marijuana Use Can Cause Problems

A lot of people with depression see marijuana as a safe drug. But studies show that when you have depression, marijuana can increase your risk for some serious problems. These include:

Worse depression. For some people, marijuana adds to depression symptoms. Your risk is higher if you started to use the drug as a teen, are a heavy user, or use recreational instead of medical marijuana.

Lack of motivation. When you use marijuana, you may find it more difficult to take part in activities that are good for you. One study found that about 20% of people who use marijuana for depression said it lowered their motivation.

Lower chance you’ll seek help. When you use marijuana recreationally, you’re less likely to seek professional care for your depression. And if you’re a heavy user and do see a mental health professional, there’s less chance their treatment will help you recover from depression.

Tobacco use and alcohol and drug misuse. People who use marijuana are more likely to smoke cigarettes and to misuse alcohol, marijuana itself, and other drugs.

Schizophrenia. Certain genes can raise your risk of schizophrenia or psychosis. If you have these genes, marijuana use may trigger these disorders.

Suicidal thoughts. Studies link marijuana use to a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in teens and recreational users with depression.

Marijuana May Ease Symptoms of Depression

There is some evidence that marijuana can reduce symptoms of depression in the short term. Some users say it helps them feel more relaxed, happy, and peaceful.

A 2020 study published in The Journal of Biology and Medicine found that about 95% of people said marijuana gave them rapid short-term relief from depression symptoms.

A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Affective Disorders reported similar fast-acting benefits. It found that people who took just two puffs of medical marijuana said the drug improved their symptoms of depression by about 50%. But continued use seemed to worsen their symptoms.

Bottom Line

Right now, there’s no good evidence that marijuana can give you long-term relief from depression. More studies show the drug can have harmful effects when you have the mood disorder, particularly if you begin use in your teens.

Does cannabis help treat it?

Some anecdotal evidence and scientific research suggest that cannabis can help with depression symptoms. However, cannabis is also a depressant, so it may increase feelings of sleepiness.

Cannabis can cause a person to feel calm and relaxed. However, for some people, cannabis is also a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Some people experience unpleasant side effects from using it.

Cannabis is not suitable for everyone. It has an adverse effect on adolescent brain development, and smoking cannabis can damage the lungs.

This article explores the potential pros and cons of using cannabis to treat depression, how to use it safely, and when to seek medical attention.

Share on PinterestDesign by MNT; Photography by Olena Ruban/Getty Images& Heath Korvola/Getty Images

Cannabis refers to the seeds, stems, leaves, and dried flowers of the cannabis plant. The plant contains more than 100 cannabinoid chemicals, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis for treating depression. Research into whether cannabis is effective at helping treat depression is still in the early stages. However, some evidence suggests cannabis may be beneficial for some people.

For example, in 2022, researchers conducted a retrospective study of 7,362 participants at a nationwide medical cannabis clinic in Canada. People sought treatment for anxiety and depression and completed health questionnaires at their initial evaluation and during at least one follow-up visit.

Researchers found a significant improvement between scores at the start and end of the study. Similarly, some people have indicated through self-reported studies that cannabis helped with their postpartum depression.

More scientific research is necessary to understand the effects of cannabis, CBD, and THC.

Learn the difference between CBD and THC here.

Cannabis may have links to depression. However, it is unclear if cannabis directly causes depression or whether people with depression are more likely to start using it in high amounts.

Some studies have suggested depression is a significant risk factor for developing cannabis use disorder (CUD), which is the medical term for an addiction to cannabis. It may lead people to start using cannabis more often or rely on it as a coping method.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that cannabis use can cause anxiety and paranoia in some cases, especially if a person uses it very frequently or in high amounts. There may also be a risk of temporary psychosis.

Learn how cannabis affects the body here.

There is little research on cannabis use in teenagers with depression. However, the CDC notes that the association between cannabis use and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using cannabis during their adolescent years. Similarly, people who start using cannabis as adolescents are at a greater risk for CUD.

Cannabis may adversely impact how a teenager’s brain builds connections between the areas responsible for thinking, learning, and memory. Scientists are still researching these effects, whether they are permanent, and how socioeconomic factors may influence them.

Learn how cannabis affects brain cells here.

Before trying cannabis, it is important to speak with a doctor, especially if a person has been managing depression without support. There are several safe and effective treatments for depression that they can recommend.

If a person is interested in using cannabis to help treat their depression symptoms, there are some things they need to consider. Firstly, cannabis is not legal in all states. In places where it is legal, doctors may only recommend it for certain health conditions. These can vary from state to state.

People who can get a recommendation from their doctor to use cannabis should follow their doctor’s instructions for safe use. In addition to this, there are some general guidelines for using cannabis as safely as possible:

  • Keep cannabis stored out of reach of children and pets.
  • Use methods of consuming cannabis that are low risk, such as eating edibles.
  • When using edibles, wait for them to take effect, as they can take longer to work.
  • Start with a small amount to gauge the right dose.
  • Do not smoke cannabis around others, particularly children and adolescents.
  • Avoid using cannabis with alcohol and other drugs.
  • Check with a doctor before using cannabis alongside prescription medication.
  • Do not use cannabis before or during high risk situations, such as driving.
  • Seek medical help if cannabis causes side effects or depression symptoms worsen.

Learn about treating depression with medication here.

Cannabis can potentially cause both physical and mental side effects. They can be short or long term. Possible physical effects include:

  • impaired body movements, such as slow reaction times
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • drowsiness or sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • breathing problems

Mental and cognitive effects may involve:

  • altered senses
  • mood swings
  • increased anxiety
  • trouble thinking clearly and problem-solving
  • memory problems
  • altered sense of time

High doses of cannabis may cause hallucinations and delusions, and regular use of high-potency cannabis may cause psychosis.

Cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding could adversely impact a child’s health and development.

Anyone considering using cannabis to treat depression may also consider talking with their doctor about the benefits versus the risks.

Learn more about smoking cannabis during pregnancy here.

Although it can feel overwhelming, depression is a treatable condition. Therapy, medication, or a combination may help reduce the symptoms and address the underlying cause.

How quickly a person responds to treatment depends on the individual. The sooner a person seeks support, the sooner they may start to feel better. Speak with a doctor, therapist, or support worker for advice.

People should also contact a health professional if they use cannabis frequently, as it can lead to addiction. A person with CUD may:

  • crave cannabis
  • use more cannabis than they intended or need more cannabis to achieve the same effects
  • continue using cannabis even if it causes problems at home, school, or work
  • continue using cannabis even if they experience physical or psychological problems
  • choose to spend time using cannabis rather than engage in activities they once enjoyed
  • use cannabis in potentially high risk situations, such as driving a car or motorcycle
  • find it difficult to stop using cannabis
  • experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using cannabis

Currently, no medications have approval for treating CUD, but research shows therapies such as acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy can help.

Seeking help for addiction may seem daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support. If you believe that you or someone close to you is showing signs of addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-4357 (TTY: 800-487-4889)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

Some scientific and self-reported evidence suggests cannabis may help some people with depression. However, responses vary. Some may find it beneficial, but others may find it increases feelings of drowsiness, as cannabis is a depressant. Sometimes, cannabis can also cause unpleasant effects, such as anxiety and paranoia.

Scientists are still learning about how cannabis affects mental health. As a result, the FDA has not approved cannabis as a treatment for depression.

People who are interested in using cannabis to treat depression should talk with a healthcare professional.

Learn more about cannabis and CBD in our dedicated hub here.

No evidence of marijuana's effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety and depression - expert material, Lahta Clinic

According to experts, so far no qualitative study has confirmed the effect of cannabinoids in the treatment of mental disorders.

People can "smoke weed to relax", but medicinal cannabis and its chemical derivatives are not able to positively affect the course of mental disorders such as depression or anxiety. Evidence of effectiveness simply does not exist. This is the conclusion that follows from the results of the most complete, at the moment, analysis of this controversial problem. The corresponding publication appeared on October 28, 2019of the year in the most authoritative magazine " The Lancet Psychiatry ". Louise Degenhardt, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), said in a statement: mental disorders. This kind of treatment doesn't really cure anything. "

The authors emphasize that none of the previously conducted "evidence-based" studies meet the standard requirements that apply to evidence of the safety and efficacy of medicines. Both clinicians and consumers of health care need to know and understand this.

The analysis included 83 studies with about 3000 participants; disorders such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, de la Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosis were targeted. In general, the results of the experts were not impressed.

Not only did marijuana extracts not reduce the symptoms of any of the six diseases; in addition, the frequency of direct symptoms and side effects was higher compared with placebo drugs. In the few randomized controlled trials where the participants were patients with depression or anxiety, cannabinoids were prescribed not as the main drug, but to alleviate completely different conditions, such as chronic pain syndrome. In the absence or unacceptably low quality of evidence, experts say, cannabinoids cannot be recommended for the treatment of mental disorders within the current legal framework.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry Deepak Cyril D'Souza (Yale University) explains:

“It is counterintuitive that cannabinoids can be useful in the treatment of depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other conditions of such diverse pathophysiological nature.”

Dr. Scott Krakover did not take part in the study, so his opinion can be considered objective:

“Specialists have long known that marijuana can aggravate the course of some mental disorders. This is especially true for disorders of the psychotic register. And if at first it seems that cannabinoids bring some relief to the general condition and well-being, in the long run the effect is negative.”

Therefore S.Krakover expresses the hope that in the future the choice of medicines by providers and consumers of medical services will be based not on rumors, but on relevant and reliable sources of scientific information.

Based on Live Science

Teen marijuana use has been linked to adult depression. Therefore, the researchers called for better communication to adolescents about the adverse effects of marijuana use - Science

Depression is a multifactorial disease, the detailed mechanisms of which are still unknown. At the molecular level, depression is accompanied by disturbances in the balance of neurotransmitters - for example, a lack of serotonin where it is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses. Therefore, one of the main strategies of drug therapy is to increase the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft - many antidepressants work in this way. At the same time, many psychoactive substances, including marijuana, bind to nerve cell receptors in such a way that the balance of neurotransmitters is shifted in one direction or another. Theoretically, this can lead to certain mental illnesses, but in practice it is extremely difficult to show such a relationship and substantiate it with specific molecular mechanisms.


Section of a mouse brain, in which the cells with receptors for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC are highlighted in green, and the nuclei of all cells are shown in blue. As you can see, THC receptors are almost everywhere. Margaret I. Davis / NIH

The search for a causal relationship between the use of any substance (from worldwide legal caffeine to marijuana, which is fully legalized only in Canada and completely banned in Russia) and mental disorders complicates several reasons.

  • First, the same substance can act on different receptors in different ways. The CB1 receptors that THC binds to are not only on neurons (in different parts of the brain with different functions), but also on many other cells, so THC may not have the most obvious effects.

  • Secondly, the same marijuana contains not only THC, but at least dozens of components that can affect the functioning of the nervous system. If we turn to legal substances, we can recall a layer of works devoted to the effects of coffee or tea, where there are both antioxidants and caffeine.

  • Thirdly, people use different substances in different circumstances, different doses and for different periods of time. If the percentage of heavy drinkers or marijuana smokers is higher among low-income people, the results - the number of suicide attempts, for example - will be affected not only by alcohol or THC, but also by poverty.

First, the same substance can act on different receptors in different ways. The CB1 receptors that THC binds to are not only on neurons (in different parts of the brain with different functions), but also on many other cells, so THC may not have the most obvious effects.

Secondly, the same marijuana contains not only THC, but at least dozens of components that can affect the functioning of the nervous system. If we turn to legal substances, we can recall a layer of works devoted to the effects of coffee or tea, where there are both antioxidants and caffeine.

Thirdly, people use different substances in different circumstances, different doses and for different periods of time. If the percentage of heavy drinkers or marijuana smokers is higher among low-income people, the results - the number of suicide attempts, for example - will be affected not only by alcohol or THC, but also by poverty.

Single studies are often inconsistent or disagree on effect sizes, so meta-analysis is an important scientific tool in such complex cases. If in one or even several cases scientists have incorrectly formed a sample, incorrectly analyzed the data, or they did not take into account something, the combination of many publications allows us to come to the right conclusion.

The authors point out that their findings are fairly confident that marijuana in adolescence causes depression in later years, and that this likely leads to an additional 400,000 cases of depression among Americans. The latter number is, of course, an estimate: the researchers relied on past estimates of the incidence of depression (8. 1% of US adults in 2013-2016) and marijuana use (21% among students, data collected from 1991 to 2014). It is most accurate to say that several hundred thousand cases of depression in adults are associated with the effects of cannabis on adolescents. True, the transfer of these data to other countries, including Russia, is already difficult, so the authors themselves do not provide such calculations even for Canada or Great Britain close to them.

In addition to a significant statistical association, a possible causal relationship between marijuana use in adolescence and depression in adults is supported by neurobiological data. In the new publication, doctors mention, in particular, another meta-analysis that brought together different studies of the structure of the brain of people who used marijuana. He points out that marijuana leads to a decrease in the hippocampus and a slight increase in the amygdala (and on the one hand), and this, apparently, is associated with the neurotoxic effect of THC and is partly compensated by the neuroprotective (that is, positively affecting nerve cells) effect of another substance. from hemp, cannabidiol. The latter is being actively studied as a potential drug and does not have a psychoactive effect, however, its mechanism of action is not yet clear in detail, as well as the neurotoxicity of THC has not yet been fully studied - there are weighty arguments in favor of this, but there is no complete picture of the relationship between THC and neuronal death. .

The authors also point out that earlier observations of young rats treated with THC showed a change in the structure of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with the transition of short-term memory to a long-term form, with orientation in space, and a number of other functions. TCG led to the fact that hippocampal neurons reduced the number of processes, and the behavior of animals underwent chronic changes - those, having matured, were worse oriented in labyrinths.

As a practical consequence of their work, the researchers call for better education of adolescents so that they understand the adverse effects associated with marijuana use.

Learn more