Medical Marijuana for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

Medical Marijuana for Major Depressive Disorder

Impaired by a loss of interest and dreary mood, the spectrum can range from feeling down to downright suicidal. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other mental health ailments are a leading cause of global health-related burdens. As opposed to mood swings or mild mood fluctuations, MDD episodes continue throughout most of the day, nearly every day for a period of at least two weeks. From adolescents to adults, people who suffer with MDD may experience periods of depressed mood, apathy, lethargy or indifference to life and these feelings are accompanied by additional problematic conditions including sleep disturbance, eating disorders, fatigue, frequent distractions and a lack of self-worth.

Additionally, the prevalence of MDD in the U.S.A. includes:

  • An estimated 21.0 million adults had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 8.3% of all U.S. adults.
  • The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adult females (10.3%) compared to males (6.2%).
  • The prevalence of adults with a major depressive episode was highest among individuals aged 18-25 (18.6%)

Globally, it’s estimated that 3.8% of the population experience depression, including 5% of adults with an increase to 5.7% of adults older than 60. Roughly 280 million people in the world are diagnosed with depression and it is more common among women than men at a rate of about 50%.  Women who are undergoing pregnancy may experience perinatal and/or postpartum depression, and they account for 10% of the worldwide population who also suffer this burden.  Additionally, “more than 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15–29-year-olds.”  In a nutshell, depression can affect anyone at any stage of life.

The main treatment for MDD is anti-depressant, pharmaceutical drugs, which often come with unwanted side-effects.

What side effects may be caused by antidepressants?

  • decreased alertness
  • headaches
  • dizziness/double vision
  • nausea (feeling sick)
  • sexual problems
  • tooth decay and oral health
  • diabetes/weight gain
  • SIADH (Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone Secretion)
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • waste disorders
  • trouble sleeping/jitters

“Side effects of antidepressants can be predicted by receptor selectivity and site of action. Although the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have better overall safety and tolerability than older antidepressants.” (National Library of medicine). Findings show that, “among recruited veterans deployed after September 11, 2001, the conditions most frequently endorsed for medicinal cannabis use were anxiety/stress, PTSD, pain, depression, and insomnia. Medicinal cannabis may offer an effective and low-risk treatment option for veterans with PTSD, especially when compared to conventional treatments.”  Veterans who were involved in the survey indicated that they used medical marijuana, “to reduce the use of over-the-counter medications (30%) including antidepressants (25%), anti-inflammatories (17%), and other prescription medications. Additionally, 463 veterans (91% of respondents) reported that medical cannabis helped them to experience a greater quality of life and 21% reported using fewer opioids as a result of their medical cannabis use.”  The veterans also indicated that medicating with cannabis allowed them to feel, “fewer psychological symptoms (80%), and fewer physical symptoms (73%). Many more reported using less alcohol (46%), fewer medications (45%), less tobacco (24%), and fewer opioids (21%) as a result of medicinal cannabis use.”

In the early 1950s, the mood-elevating effects of the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were discovered serendipitously. Further investigations of these compounds and the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) led to early theories relating brain chemistry and mood. These discoveries throughout the 1950s and 1960s sparked further interest in antidepressant drug therapy and in developing new and better medications for patients suffering from depression. The endocannabinoid system receives medical marijuana through receptors that are able to distribute cannabinoids in a way that is similarly effective and for adults who prefer alternative therapies, cannabis could be the best complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for MDD.

Marijuana hybrid strains that are rich in both THC and CBD are reportedly effective, according to many patients who use the herbal therapy as their primary medication. Blue Dream is a medical marijuana hybrid strain that is very popular among patients who wish to treat anxiety and MDD.  It contains significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) as well as the commonly known, THC.   John (verified purchase, April 5, 2022), explained the relief he gained when self-medicating with it.  He wrote, “Very relaxing …Helps with my nightmares and night terrors, night sweats, depression.”

“Although there are known, effective treatments for mental disorders, more than 75% of people in low- and middle-income countries receive no treatment (World Health Organization). Barriers to effective care include a lack of investment in mental health care, lack of trained health-care providers and social stigma associated with mental disorders.”  Medical marijuana can be grown or purchased and could become a staple treatment for those who lack other medications or resources to treat MDD.

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