What are the Effects of CBD on Depression?
It’s okay to feel sad. It is, after all, a normal emotion and a reaction to something that made us unhappy. But once things settle down and you start adjusting to your new reality, the sadness goes away. You begin to “rebuild your life” again and find some happiness and satisfaction in it.
However, there are some people who can’t get past the sadness. The negative feelings stay with them all the time, and they feel this great sadness every day.
If you are experiencing something like this, especially if it has been more than two weeks, you may be going through depression.
How do I know if I have depression? What are its symptoms?
There are big differences between normal sadness and depression. In normal sadness, you still feel some happiness whenever you think of positive memories. Your self-esteem and relationship with others don’t suffer because you know you can pull through this.
Depression, on the other hand, affects all aspects of your life, including your relationship with people. You feel depressed, insignificant, and empty all the time that your self-esteem begins to suffer. You also start dwelling on your failures and start blaming yourself for past mistakes. There are uncontrollable outbursts of anger and frustration over little things, too, which worsen your anxiety and agitation.
Depression also affects you physically. You lose sleep and appetite, resulting in lack of energy, tiredness, poor concentration, and poor memory.
All these can take a toll on you that thoughts of self-harm and suicide start to creep in.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms every day, most of the day, for at least two weeks, you might be suffering from clinical depression.
Is this just a phase? Or is there something wrong with me?
Normal sadness and grief is a phase. The sooner you face the issue and cope with the problem, the sooner your recovery begins and you start feeling normal again.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in clinical depression. There are things going on inside your body that you just can’t control.
Triggers like the loss of a loved one, huge life changes, emotional abuse, or stress at home and work send a cascade of chemical signals to the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal glands) axis and activate it. The HPA axis is the first responder to stress. When activated, they release chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) that stimulate the other regions of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response, emotions, and memory. These dictate the way you respond to the trigger and how you will react to the same stressor.
To control the levels of the chemicals, promote balance, and prevent an overreaction, the brain cells begin to reabsorb them back. This switches off the fight-or-flight response and deactivates the feedback loop.
In depression though, constant stress damages this feedback loop, so the chemicals responsible for feeling depressed and agitated stay elevated. Their increased levels then damage the HPA axis and result in its continual activation.
Constant stress isn’t just the cause of depression though, but there are other factors, too, that increase your risk for developing depression. Medications and drugs, for example, can cause chemical imbalance in the brain, so do chronic medical illnesses like hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, seizures, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, among others.
Can CBD help relieve my symptoms of depression?
Antidepressants do help in controlling depression, but like most drugs, they have side effects to be wary of. Not only can they cause headaches and affect your sleep and appetite, but long-term use can actually worsen depression and increase suicidal thoughts and actions. Antidepressants are also known to decrease libido and increase gastrointestinal problems.
Today, an increasing number of patients are either switching to CBD or using it in combination with their antidepressants for symptom control.
But how can CBD relieve depression, and more importantly, is it safe?
One of the functions of our endocannabinoid system (ECS) is to regulate mood and promote neurotransmitter and hormone balance. The ECS is activated by endogenous endocannabinoids like anandamide. Now, CBD can not only activate the ECS but also prevent the reabsorption of anandamide, making them stay longer in the system to regulate mood.
In addition to CBD’s effect on the ECS, it also increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood as well as appetite, libido, and sleep by inhibiting the chemicals responsible for stress. Decreased serotonin level contributes to depression. Like antidepressants, CBD also boosts the serotonin levels in the brain by “telling” the cells responsible for producing serotonin to not stop releasing the neurotransmitter. CBD also directly activates the serotonin receptor. This is the receptor serotonin binds to to produce its antidepressant effects.
Dopamine is considered as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. In patients with depression, there is a low amount of dopamine in the brain, resulting in depressive symptoms. Now, when CBD binds to the serotonin receptors, dopamine release is enhanced. With more dopamine in the brain, symptoms of depression and anxiety are reduced.
When the HPA axis is stimulated, its end-product is cortisol, which a major stress hormone. High levels of cortisol can affect and ultimately damage the HPA axis. Studies revealed that CBD has the ability to reduce cortisol levels in the brain by interfering with its secretion.
It is interesting to note, too, that people with depression have chronic brain inflammation. This isn’t your usual inflammation though where there are obvious symptoms of swelling, redness, and heat. But this is inflammation due to brain cell injury caused by high levels of cortisol and glutamate, a type of excitatory neurotransmitter that causes toxicity when its levels are high. CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It can inhibit the cells responsible for the inflammatory process, and it can also decrease glutamate levels when it activates the adenosine receptor, a receptor involved in controlling inflammation.
The many therapeutic effects of CBD and its good safety profile make it a suitable treatment for depression. In fact, CBD has fewer, more tolerable, and short-lived side effects compared to conventional antidepressants.
Are there studies or stories that prove CBD’s effects on depression?
HIV/AIDS can cause depression in patients. In one study participated by 252 patients with HIV/AIDS, CBD was able to relieve several symptoms like loss of appetite, stress and anxiety, as well as depression. CBD was also able to improve their quality of life.
In this study, 70% of the 102 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis reported an improvement in their depression.
These studies clearly show that CBD can help relieve depression.
Depression can be very debilitating, but it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer because of it. So the next time someone tells you to “snap out of it,” “think positive thoughts,” or “count your blessings,” breathe deeply. By understanding depression better and knowing how CBD can help you, you now know you have the power to take your life back and begin to love and enjoy it once more.