Depression is a condition that can have many causes. Sometimes people are depressed by circumstances, such as the death of loved one, financial problems or the break-up of a relationship. Others are depressed by psychological problems developing early in life, or present from birth, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or imbalances in the body that affect the functioning of the brain.
Regardless of the cause of depression, and the kinds of drugs a patient might be taking to treat the problem, there is evidence that adding CBD oil to a treatment regimen can be beneficial.
The Endocannabinoid System and Mood
The body’s own endocannabinoid system manages many human functions, such as memory, appetite, balance, female reproduction, sleep and mood. When the endocannabinoid system functions are disrupted, there can be troubling changes in mood.
The most common symptoms of depression are a marked change in mood and loss of interest in what used to give a person pleasure. Other commonly reported symptoms are loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. All of these are functions of the endocannabinoid system.
Psychiatric researchers at the University of Newcastle on Tyne published a report in 2011 regarding use of cannabinoids in the treatment of mood disorders. They found in post-mortem studies that deaths related to depression, schizophrenia, and suicide exhibited major problems in receptors of the endocannabinoid system.
These researchers propose that if mood functions and disorders like depression are part of the endocannabinoid system, it’s time to significantly research cannabinoids like CBD and THC in treatment. They also noted that studies so far are promising.
SSRIs and CBD Oil
When a person begins treatment for depression, they are likely to be prescribed an SSRI to go along with therapy. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are considered generally safe even though they come with black box warnings. People beginning to take an SSRI may have an adverse reaction and should be observed carefully.
Black box warnings on SSRIs warn that some drugs may cause elevated heart rates or other side effects. And for some users, they may increase feelings of suicidality, especially in the early stages of treatment. They also warn that taking some SSRIs may be dangerous in combination with over-the-counter or herbal medications like St. John’s Wort.
Doctors prescribing SSRIs know that not all medications work the same way for all patients, and some people will experience no side effects or have no difficulty with taking other medications along with the prescription.
Medical researchers are now publishing studies showing that CBD oil has properties like antidepressants, as well as like those of anti-anxiolytics. CBD oil does essentially the same thing, without requiring black box warnings. However, like pharmaceutical medications, CBD oil can affect people differently.
A Cross-Sectional CBD Oil User Survey
The journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research published a cross-sectional survey of CBD oil users in July of 2018. The authors solicited users to participate in the anonymous survey through social media and other sources to report on their use of CBD oil and the results. They had a large sample of 2,409 respondents.
The top three conditions cited were chronic pain, arthritis and anxiety, but the fourth was depression. Over 400 respondents said depression was their principal reason for taking CBD oil, and the most common method of treatment was sublingual oil.
Respondents were permitted to skip certain questions if they preferred not to answer them. More than 60% of the people taking the survey said they were using CBD oil to treat a specific condition, or more than one condition, averaging 2.5 medical issues per response. Others said they were using it for overall health and well-being.
The survey asked about many factors, including demographics and the use of cannabis besides CBD, and then calculated the percentages of users’ results. They found that among the 2,409 responses, 404 said CBD oil worked well with other medications, 391 said it worked moderately well by itself and 475 said it worked very well by itself.
The respondents who claimed CBD oil worked very well by itself also had the highest number of regular cannabis users. The number of regular users of cannabis was much higher than the national average.
Respondents also reported side effects like dry mouth, huger, euphoria and sleepiness. Reports of side effects were higher among people taking CBD oil for medical conditions. The authors speculate that this may be related to other medications taken for their conditions or the quality of CBD oil products used.
What CBD Oil Does for Depression
CBD oil can’t make depressing circumstances go away, but it may be able to reduce the symptoms of depression. This is because CBD oil acts as an anandamide reuptake and breakdown inhibitor and changes the shape of CB1 receptors. This allows the brain to further process the body’s own endocannabinoid production.
When CBD is ingested, it affects many receptors in the body that send messages to the brain, but it also releases serotonin and dopamine, both of which noticeably improve mood. In one study from 2011, researchers found that cannabinoids like CBD can regulate the stress associated with depression.
Depression can result from many conditions that are circumstantial, psychological or biochemical. A patient beginning a treatment program for depression will frequently be prescribed an SSRI in addition to therapy.
SSRIs are considered safe, but they come with black box warnings, and anyone beginning treatment with these drugs should be monitored closely to watch for potentially adverse effects. CBD oil can perform a similar function to SSRIs, but without the serious adverse effects possible with an SSRI.
Researchers have found in post-mortem examinations that death related to depression, suicide or schizophrenia all had disturbances in their endocannabinoid systems, and proposed that cannabinoids should be further investigated for treatment. A survey of CBD oil users found that a significant portion of respondents reported that using CBD oil without other drugs worked very well.
More research is definitely needed but the findings of these studies is certainly encouraging.