How Cannabis Can Help with a Low Mood

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder that can have a significant impact on the quality of your life and your relationships. Whether you have been formally diagnosed or have explored treatment options on your own, you probably already know that science has not made many advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of depression. You may also have been frustrated by the fact that the only options your doctor offered you were prescription drugs or talk therapy.

We are bombarded with a deluge of messages from Big Pharma telling us that taking prescription antidepressants is the only way to handle feeling low. Pharmaceutical antidepressants were introduced in the 1950’s and now there are more than thirty on the market. These are a viable option for some but are certainly not for everyone.

Many prescription antidepressants target serotonin levels, and cannabis works in much the same way—by increasing levels of serotonin. This was demonstrated in a 2007 study with animals. A 2009 study showed that an antidepressant effect can be stimulated in rats merely activating cannabinoid receptors — the same mechanism used by cannabis. Another study conducted in 2015 showed that cannabis could help with chronic stress by keeping the endocannabinoid system working correctly.

There is now a significant amount of evidence suggesting problems with the endocannabinoid system cause low mood. Unfortunately, researchers don’t yet know the exact way in which endocannabinoids influence emotions and behavior. But they do know that when there is a deficiency of endocannabinoids in the body or when they do not function properly, depressive symptoms can result. It is believed that cannabis can act in much the same way as the body's natural cannabinoids (yes, you have them!) and stimulate the endocannabinoid receptors, which can lessen the symptoms of depression. Unsurprisingly, Big Pharma is working on developing several types of drugs that alter the endocannabinoid system, and some are already on the market. But is it necessary to turn to prescription drugs for this effect or could you use something more natural, like cannabis itself?

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