Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over one hundred cannabinoid compounds found in the herbaceous plant cannabis. The variety of cannabis known as hemp is a major source of CBD. This is because hemp naturally contains very low amounts of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive cannabinoid that makes people feel high. Thanks to hemp, CBD can easily be extracted in no-high formulas.
So many health claims are being made about CBD that it is difficult to tell facts from fiction. In this article, we will review the scientific observations and claims that are being made about CBD for depression. Many are asking, “Should you take CBD for depression?” Ultimately, that is a discussion people should have with their healthcare providers. However, we will present some information that may help spark that conversation and answer some common questions about CBD and depression.
Can CBD Oil Help With Depression?
Anecdotally, many are claiming that CBD has helped relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many are still wondering if CBD can be an effective option for depression relief. A 2020 case study by Laczkovics et al. made observations of a sixteen-year-old patient with multiple mood disorders and substance abuse issues.5 The case study noted that the patient tolerated daily CBD capsule doses of 600mg to 800mg well and after three weeks discontinued the use of antidepressant medication.
Surprisingly, the patient continued to improve.5 They experienced significantly less depressive and social anxiety symptoms and were able to discontinue substance abuse without experiencing withdrawal. Is it really possible to experience such relief from mood disorders just by taking CBD?
CBD Case Study Findings
While this is only a single case study, Laczkovics explain why CBD could be the next generation of treatment for mood disorders like depression5:
“Improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms, especially social anxiety and withdrawal, were seen gradually while increasing the CBD dosage. Since the patient reported good tolerability and no adverse effects, we increased the dosage to 600 mg/day. … This improvement was significantly associated with elevated anandamide serum levels, reflecting a possible mode of action. Cannabidiol does not activate cannabinoid receptors, but moderately inhibits the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide.”
Can It Cause Depression?
A 2019 report from Detherage explains “…patients who used cannabis more frequently reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Over 40% of daily cannabis users reported experiencing depression and over 50% reported feeling severely anxious.”
Cannabis use has been associated with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Many believe that THC can create depression and anxiety symptoms, or exacerbate them. The issue can be further complicated because many are using cannabis for chronic pain- a condition that increases the likelihood of experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
CBD has not been associated with generating feelings of depression or anxiety. It is thought to have a better safety profile compared to THC for its lack of psychoactivity. CBD can counteract THC and some have even tried to use it to reduce intoxication after taking too much of a THC product.
Does It Help With Anxiety?
“Freud considered the problem of anxiety a ‘nodal point, linking up all kinds of most important questions; a riddle, of which the solution must cast a flood of light upon our whole mental life.’ We have made some progress since Freud’s time, but according to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders still affect about 40 million people in the United States alone, and antianxiety drugs are among the top prescription drugs.”
-Freud 1920 from Mechoulam, 2013
Many researchers have reported on the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antipsychotic properties of CBD.6 Trials on mice and humans have observed the calming effects of CBD. Researchers like Mechoulam et al. have proposed that CBD lowers anxiety by activating the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A. They have also hypothesized that CBD may reduce anxiety by enhancing adenosine signaling via inhibition of a receptor called GPR55.
What this means is that CBD is able to work on a cellular level in the body. It influences the way cells communicate in order to reduce biological processes that lead to stress and anxiety.
Cannabinoids like CBD and terpenes from cannabis are known to produce a variety of effects within the body. Sarris et al. (2020) ascertained that most consumers use cannabis for pain (64%), anxiety (50%), and depression/
mood (34%).8 One reviewed study has observed that a single 600mg dose of CBD can prevent social anxiety symptoms during public speaking.
While more research is needed, it is possible that CBD may likewise help soothe panic attacks. Neuroimaging reviewed by Sarris et al. (2020) found that a 400mg dose of CBD “…significantly decreased subjective
anxiety.” They suspect that CBD exerts these effects by regulating limbic and paralimbic brain areas associated with emotional processing.8
What Research Has Been Done?
The endocannabinoid system is the body system that contains cannabinoid receptors like CB-1 and CB-2. The body produces natural endocannabinoids but also responds to plant-derived phytocannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, etc. Receptors respond to stimuli in two main ways. Agonist compounds can be thought of as activators. Antagonist compounds can be thought of as inhibitors.
There is an interesting account of the link between CB-1 receptors and mood disorders in Mechoulam and Parker’s 2013 scientific review of the endocannabinoid system and the brain.6 The authors describe how a pharmaceutical company discovered that a CB-1 receptor agonist (blocking) compound could be used as a target to develop a weight-loss drug. This drug called rimonabant showed incredible effects including lowering obesity, blocking psychoactive effects of THC and lowering addiction behavior in animal models.
In the human study of the drug rimonabant, mood disorders excluded eligibility from the study.6 Surprisingly, patients taking rimonabant experienced increased anxiety issues and suicidal tendencies. The drug was pulled from the market but left us with important data on the link between CB-1 receptors and mood disorders. Since THC activates CB-1, it is thought that it may also increase anxiety issues.
CBD vs. Antidepressants
“Cannabis has been used for millennia as a medicinal agent. In India, bangue (the local name for cannabis at the time) was believed to help the user to be ‘delivered from all worries and care,’ and its extensive present-day use throughout the world is presumably due, in part at least, to the same effects.”
The most commonly used antidepressant drugs are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs can have several side effects and in some cases make depressive symptoms worsen. While they have been relied on for decades, they are often very poorly tolerated.
Dissatisfaction with SSRIs has led many to investigate natural approaches to managing depression symptoms. Many have been drawn to cannabis for this reason. Castañeda (2020) found that depression patients between 16 years old and 59 in the UK viewed cannabis as an alternative to SSRIs.2 The participants reported that they didn’t feel the two were interchangeable but felt that both offered benefits to managing depression.
Does CBD Cause Any Side Effects?
If you have ever taken a medication that advises you not to consume grapefruit, you may be familiar with the ability of medications to interfere with the liver. CBD has been noted to have similar risks associated with liver enzyme complexes. CBD can alter the way the liver processes medications. Researchers Hsu and Painter (2019) have recently warned against consuming cannabis or cannabis derivatives like CBD with the medication warfarin.4
What is Depression?
The Americal Psychiatric Association (APA) defines depression:
“Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”
Depression symptoms can range in intensity from mild to severe and can fluctuate over time. Sometimes depression is just feeling sad or down. Other times depression can be intense like thoughts of death or suicide. Depression also manifests physical symptoms like trouble sleeping, lack of energy, slowed speech and movement, and changes in appetite.
If symptoms like those last for two weeks or more it may lead to a diagnosis of depression. It is important to see a doctor about depression symptoms because it could be another health issue. Some medical conditions like thyroid problems, tumors, or nutritional deficiencies can also present symptoms of depression.
Depression symptoms can include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
- Increase in purposeless physical activity like pacing
- Feeling worthless, guilty, sad, angry, or confused
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, and decision making
APA Depression Statistics
Depression affects an estimated one in 15 adults (6.7%) in any given year.
And one in six people (16.6%) will experience depression at some time in their life.
Women are more likely than men to experience depression. Some studies show that one-third of women will experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime.
Types of Depression
There are a few different specific types of depression. These types of depression occur under special circumstances or have special attributes.
- Peripartum Depression
- Seasonal Depression
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
- Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
- Bipolar Disorders
- Major Depression
- What It’s Like to Have Depression
CBD for Depression: How Does it Work?
Depression research by Sarris et al. (2020) advises that THC should be avoided by individuals with major depressive disorder or low moods.8 As many as 50% of study participants identified as medical cannabis consumers though. Despite concerns from the medical community, it is clear that many are looking to cannabis to help their depression.
Many researchers believe that these individuals would be better off using CBD products because they do not have as much risk as THC. THC can exacerbate depressive symptoms in some cases, but CBD has a much better safety profile. CBD is known to modulate 5-HT1A receptors and work through the endocannabinoid system to improve serotonin balance. Since serotonin imbalance is a major component of depression, it would seem that CBD may be a better option than THC.
Mechoulam et al. (2013) have extensively described the link between depression and the endocannabinoid system. His findings are described below.6 They illustrate how mood disorders like depression have a genetic link to the endocannabinoid system.
Relief of depression symptoms may be possible to achieve by supplementing the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids like CBD.
- The CB1 receptor gene may contribute significantly to the development of anxiety and depression
- The CB1 gene possibly contributes to depression in combination with the gene of the serotonin transporter
- CB1 receptors rapidly desensitize following the administration of agonists like CBD
- Poorly functioning natural endocannabinoid signaling likely contributes to depressive illness
- Enhanced endocannabinoid signaling is associated with antidepressant effects
- The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in neurogenesis and signaling
- Increased CB2 receptor expression reduces depressive-related behaviors
How to Use CBD
CBD comes in a variety of forms. You can use CBD as a tincture, vape, salve, or capsule. Many innovative CBD delivery methods are available.
How Much Should I Take?
When you start using CBD you should start low and go slow! In some studies, participants take large doses of 400mg to 800mg CBD. These participants generally start off with much lower doses and work their way up. You should always talk to a doctor for specific dosing and medical recommendations regarding CBD.
If you begin to experience stomach aches, nausea, or other discomforts you should not increase your CBD dosage. Side effects of CBD are considered to be mild, but they are a sign that you may be taking too much CBD too fast. You can read more about CBD Dosage in our blog.
Where to Buy
If you are interested in trying CBD products, you can buy CBD online from the comfort of your home. No High offers a variety of CBD products in our online store. You can also learn more about buying CBD online in our Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
CBD Product Reviews
Check out No High’s variety of CBD tinctures that come in a variety of flavors like Lemon Haze. No High CBD tinctures come in a full spectrum formula and are available at different potencies. The 500mg CBD tincture is a good place to start if you are new to CBD.
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Final Thoughts About CBD for Depression
CBD is a wonderful natural cannabis product that has a lot to offer. While we are always excited to encourage people to try CBD, it is extremely important to be safe when considering CBD. If you are on any current medications or are diagnosed with any medical or psychological condition you should always talk to your doctor before trying new products. Many doctors are excited to explore natural options like CBD, but they will also let you know if CBD could have negative effects on your condition or current medications.
- American Psychiatric Association. What is Depression? Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
(January 2017). American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression
- Castañeda, J. (2020), “User perspectives on cannabis and SSRIs as treatment for depression”, Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/DAT-08-2019-0038 Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/DAT-08-2019-0038/full/html
- Detherage, J. (2019). Cannabis Use and Association with Pain, Anxiety, and Depression Among Emergency Department Patients. Retrieved from: https://corescholar.libraries.wright.edu/scholarship_medicine_all/10/
- Hsu, A., & Painter, N. A. (2019). Probable interaction between warfarin and inhaled and oral administration of cannabis. Journal of pharmacy practice, 0897190019854958. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0897190019854958
- Laczkovics, C., Kothgassner, O. D., Felnhofer, A., & Klier, C. M. (2020). Cannabidiol treatment in an adolescent with multiple substance abuse, social anxiety and depression. neuropsychiatrie, 1-4. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40211-020-00334-0
- Mechoulam, R., & Parker, L. A. (2013). The endocannabinoid system and the brain. Annual review of psychology, 64, 21-47. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Raphael_Mechoulam2/publication/229163258_The_Endocannabinoid_System_and_the_Brain/links/5469dae80cf2f5eb18054fc8/The-Endocannabinoid-System-and-the-Brain.pdf
- Sarris, J., Sinclair, J., Karamacoska, D., Davidson, M., & Firth, J. (2020). Medicinal cannabis for psychiatric disorders: a clinically-focused systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1), 24. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12888-019-2409-8