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Nancy Schimelpfening

Study Says Marijuana Has Antidepressant Effect, but Only at Low Doses

By October 30, 2007

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A new study published in the October 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience says marijuana exhibits an antidepressant effect, but only at low doses. At higher doses, the opposite effect was observed, with serotonin levels dropping off even lower than the control group.

Dr. Gabriella Gobbi and colleagues, of McGill University and Le Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin of Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, injected rats with a synthetic cannabinoid and then subjected them to the Forced Swim Test, a test used to measure depression in animals. At the low dose, the cannabinoids produced an antidepressant effect in the rats accompanied by increased activity in the neurons that produce serotonin. Increasing the dose beyond a set point, however, reversed the effect and serotonin levels dropped, becoming even lower than the control animals that did not receive the drug.

Because of the difficulty in controlling the dose when marijuana is smoked, the authors say there are problems with using it directly as an antidepressant. "Excessive cannabis use in people with depression poses high risk of psychosis," said Dr. Gobbi in a press release. Instead, she and her team are focusing their research on a new class of drugs which would enhance the effects of the brain's natural endo-cannabinoids.

October 30, 2007 at 8:56 pm
(1) T says:

Just because an animal on a high dose of marijuana is immobile for a longer period of time than a sober one that does not mean it is depressed, it means it is stoned and humans alike don’t move around a lot when stoned.
But I concur that using cannabis against depression is not a good idea. I went into an episode of psychosis after using cannabis excessively while unemployed, broke and blue.
I thought that it was excessive levels of seratonin that produce psychosis, at least that’s what the medication I got at the time was suposed to block. How does that fit in with the study finding a drop in seratonin levels of those animals that took high doses?

October 30, 2007 at 9:13 pm
(2) T says:

Oh, and I was searching for some tips to naturally alliviate depression, got any of those? I know there is food, exercise and meditation but what about the specifics. What type of foods? What kind of exercise, long distance running or weightlifting? What type of meditation, is breathing exercises enough or should one delve into focusing on the third eye or practice tantra in solitude?

October 31, 2007 at 9:46 pm
(3) Willow says:

I smoke pot on a somewhat daily basis. Not quite everyday, but at least 4x wk, and only in the evening. It really does and did lift any kind of depression I might have had. It makes me feel happy, yet I’m not hysterically laughing, like some people whom smoke it can get. I just like the taste and the end result.

March 1, 2009 at 9:45 pm
(4) spasmelodic says:

Is synthetic cannabinoid available in suppository form ?

July 20, 2009 at 11:02 pm
(5) Krispy Kreme says:

Not sure if this phenomena is directly related to your serotonin level, but the intensifying of experience ganja engenders works against you if your thoughts stray to a bad place.

September 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm
(6) Sharkasm says:

I’ve suffered from depression for many years and was only diagnosed a couple of years ago. For me, pot has worked better than any anti-depressants i’ve been prescribed, and as the swim test would indicate, it worked great on low doses, just a puff here and there throughout the day, but higher levels just made me tired and well.. stoned. It became a joke with my brother who lives with me, because he could tell if i had been smoking because of the ambition I had. In another country I would advocate it as an anti-depressant when used properly, but because of the legality of it, I cannot.

So here’s my dilemma. Prescribed anti-depressants have done next to nothing, except help me handle anxiety attacks, which were at times severe. I can’t smoke pot anymore because of my job and random testing. Within weeks of quitting I started noticing all of the classic symptoms returning fast and furious. I’m not sad or bummed out all the time as most are because of the way i am vigilantly optimistic, but i just cant find the ambition that i need to get through most days.

Here’s the question I pose to you. What anti-depressants are most likely to give me the same results as a low level of marijuana?

July 24, 2011 at 9:15 am
(7) john says:

A stiumlant drug would work the best

July 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm
(8) camille cummings says:

serequel is the only pharm. drug that has ever helped me with anxiety. It helps me sleep 8 hours at night at 25-50 mg. No more or you will be a zombie. good luck

November 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm
(9) A concerned wife says:

I hope someone can help…maybe I am not the only one with this problem. I am not a pot smoker but I am married to one. We have severe arguments about the subject. I cant help but question mind blurying drugs. However, my husband shows many symptoms of depresseion now. He has smoked pot since he was 15 years old. Now with me around and the tests at his new job he cant smoke as much anymore and becomes more irritable every day. I can not motivate him to do anything. But I would like to help … My question is the same as Mr/Mrs T. What can help? e.g. Food (What types?), Excersise (What type, How often?), or meditation (What types?) Appreciate any input! PS. Accepting pot in our house is not an option!

September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm
(10) kevin says:

well i mean, enjoy your divorce or his suicide. you decide whats more important. your husbands health, or haveing a small amount of pot in his life. seems easy to me.

January 7, 2010 at 9:40 am
(11) Mike McGee says:

These studies, always promising, inevitably conclude the same way: We need to create a new class of drugs, patentable and highly profitable, that mimic the effects of marijuana. Why not draw a more sensible conclusion: Marijuana administered in the proper doses under supervision has an anti-depressant effect. ANY drug can be overused and defeat the purpose of treatment.

February 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm
(12) Steve Hemm says:

@ Sharkasm: you may find Kava Kava or St. John’s Wort useful for your depression. They are usually available in any pharmacy shop.

June 6, 2010 at 9:54 pm
(13) Rock says:

Running for 40 minutes a few times a week has helped me with my depression. I’ve had depression for 20 years, taking antidepressants for the first 10. Most had bad side effects, didn’t work, or stopped working after a couple of years. After 10 years, I decided to try a small amount of pot once a week. I was able to quit the antidepressants right away. The side effects are much better, its cheaper and is not as addictive as antidepressants. Too bad it’s not legal.

July 10, 2010 at 10:39 pm
(14) Adam says:

I have for year been nu-willing to see doctors about my depression. In the bast I have been diagnosed with both bi poler and deeply depressed and the last time I took mood stabilizers or and antidepressant it led so a seizure disorder and they then wanted to medicate me for that was well and for the past 4 years i have been doing medical marijuana and not taken any drugs for either other illness and been fine with both. I think that says alot about why the big drug companies have all the money and anyone who wants to compete with them is going to lose.

July 27, 2010 at 9:15 am
(15) Dirk says:

I ended up suffering from major depression after getting worse and worse on anti-depressants
After reaching breaking point I used cannabis, as it was the only thing that made me feel remotely normal and able to think objectively
It helped enormously in stopping my medication, the severe withdrawl symptoms from the ad’s were greatly lessened
For the first time in years I could feel happy, my insomnia went away, I could focus on things, years of tension melted away, without the cannabis to help I really do not want to imagine where I would be now
It took some time to get to grips with my issues, the cannabis letting me think more objectively, rather than the normal overwhelming negativity, aided me greatly in getting to the root of my problems, don’t get me wrong it still took a lot of effort but it led to me taking responsibility for my own life and gave me back control
From my experience the “psychosis” that can come from overuse is merely the amplification of underlying issues, people get caught up in it rather than take control of the experience/situation, easier said than done I know
Reading about mental health issues while under the influence can help, the deepened thinking when directed to the underlying causes can be hugely theraputic, questioning your behaviour, where it came from, why it still affects you etc Understanding what is happening/happened to you and making sense of it is a huge part of recovery
As with all drugs, if you choose to use then show it some respect and don’t abuse it, using it to hide from life or taking as much as you can, as fast as you can is going to cause some serious problems

September 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm
(16) Jordan H says:

First of all, let me say that antidepressants kill 40,000 people each year! Marijuana deaths? Zero. Next, let me tell all the ignorant uneducated people about how much funding goes to stupid journals like the one this article is written about (including millions of dollars directly from pharmaceutical corporations funding, thus biasing, UNIVERSITY research). Drug manufacturers spend $6 billion every year on advertising, and create clinical trials and tests, just like this one, and then smear the results, take out the findings where the drugs can increase chance of suicide by up to SEVEN TIMES. Can I make it ANY clearer? Obviosly when you have 300,000,000 ingrate masses being pushed drugs through every media outlet and psychiatrist and general practitioner that can make money for the government via taxes, FDA bribery, revolving door of FDA psychiatrists sponsored by Lilly, Merck, and every other pharmaceutical company, you’re going to see bullshit like this. AND you begin to see widespread corruption of masses, being indoctrinated into the notion that they are mentally ill. The hopeless, now suddenly psychotic masses then scramble to try the new happy pills that our helpful, honest government fully approved. They are stressing happiness, immediacy, they are stressing immediate gratification, and it is completely scientifically unfounded and only supported my overarching marketing campaigns. People generally want as much happiness, immediate gratification as they can get, they don’t need it. Humans need “medicine”, they do not need psychotropic “pharmaceuticals”. While marijuana users are busy not reading this article because they are experiencing first-hand the antidepressant qualities of the plant, those already viamently opposed to it’s use are blindly taking in any information that is pleasing to hear and that sounds “true”.

And of course, since dope is sold on the street it can’t be safe, obviosly, I mean, even though it has been habitually used for thousands of years, and new antidepressants can skip being tested for a fee of $100,000 per drug, miracles of chemisty like Prozac, cymbalta, effexor are much safer for millions of people to take every day of their lives.
…even though they’ve been around for a year or two and our government lied and didn’t test them and kept marijuana illegal because it has no medical use and leads to addiction, use of other drugs.
• In reality, the nature of pharmaceutical drugs is to manage symptoms indefinitely, and use other drugs to combat side effects of the original drugs. Sounds hypocritical? Looks hypocritical. Smells like bullshit.

November 11, 2010 at 10:49 am
(17) jjk says:

It seems like marijuana is the only drug that falls under the scrutiny of requiring zero side effects to be considered a valid option. Why is that?

Have you taken the time to look at the side effects from pharmaceutical drugs? They are quite scary.

Why is alcohol and chemical injected tobacco legal? Not too mention the toxic filters left behind in the environment. Alcohol is acceptable right? it is good for us. Complete hypocrisy.

It is all a big conspiracy if you ask me. We are conditioned to think that illegal only means wrong and immoral. It is this type of thinking that stops us from forming our own conclusions outside of the law. We are not talking murder here. Why don’t we all start to think for ourselves for once and stop being strayed by others with greedy selfish agendas.

If you shun marijuana than you should absolutely not be in agreement with any modern medicine. At least be fair with your conclusions.

Think outside of illegal verses legal and compare the facts.

April 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm
(18) cameron meriwether says:

I personally have been using marijuana for over 2 years now to help battle my depression. At first i listened to what the docs told me and took the several different types of drugs that they riddled my body with. It left me hollow and empty just a shell of a person who could feel nothing but hey… atleast im not sad. Then one day i couldn’t stand the emptiness anymore and quit taking the pills. The stop of taking this medication thrust me into a downward spiral until i took up a former past time. I started smoking marijuana 1-2 times a day and i have never feltt happier. I no longer get down feelings or feel panic in social situations. I go through each day with a smile on my face. I decided to bring it up to my doctor about a year a go and his response was overall good. He signed off on my marijuana use and now im free to smoke as I please. Everyone needs to let go of the connections between marijuana and crime and realize it is a substance that helps people.

December 18, 2011 at 11:31 am
(19) happychic says:

I am in complete agreement about marijuana being used in controlled medical doses. I am tired of all of these mind altering man made medications that DO not work and if they do, have so many side effects. Lets just keep letting the drug companies kill us while they get rich instead of using a God given medication. Pot helps me have the motivation and confidence that is really inside myself instead of being brought down by everyone’s legalism. So we are all different. I need medication and you don’t….but for goodness sakes let me choose it myself instead of trusting peoplq who are profiting from using me as a Guinea pig. I feel like I am medical evidence with some things I’ve been through as well as genetic family history that THC does help certain people with depression. Alas, as is everything its all about the money.

February 2, 2012 at 5:03 am
(20) javelina says:

I have had lifetime major depression and generalized anxiety and started taking prescription drugs for this 13 years ago. I have taken/tried about 25 different drugs for these issues, and most have just caused me hellish side effects with little antidepressant or anti-anxiety effect. I now take Wellbutrin, Prozac, Klonopin, and Neurontin, and all it does is make me tired and more depressed. I’ve started a taper off Prozac and feel like crap. The Wellbutrin and Klonopin I’ve been on for 13 years and am just totally addicted to them without any therapeutic effect anymore. Xanax worked for anxiety, but incredibly addictive, so I use it sparingly. Other things have worked much better for me, such as diet, exercise, and meditation, although the depression prevents me from doing them.

For those who have asked for more specifics on these, here is just my own experience of what has helped me, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not prescribing:

Diet: Try to stay away from sugar and fast-burning carbs like white bread, pasta, white rice. Try to make the majority of intake protein and vegetables.

Exercise: Proven to work as well as SSRIs, but it must be aerobic exercise (treadmill, running, biking, anything that makes you huff and puff) 30 minutes three times a week absolute minimum. I did this for a while and it had a drastic positive effect, but I couldn’t keep it up.

Meditation: Learn and practice mindfulness meditation. One technique is trying to maintain a constant awareness of one’s breath. No lotus position, no sitting, this is simply trying to maintain focus of attention. If practiced regularly (20-30 min daily) it changes brain chemistry for the positive and alleviates depression (for me).

February 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm
(21) concerned wife says:

I have always been extremely against any and all use of marijuana, and have never believed in “depression” as an illness. My outlook has always been people are depressed because they have crap in their lives that they aren’t taking steps to be healed from, and really, truly believed they were self centered and needed to just “choose to be happy.”

I am married to a man I love beyond anything else in the world, and have been with him since 14 years old. We are now married with three children, and have been in love for 15years. He has had “depression” issues that I can think back on for almost this entire time, some times much worse than others, the worst times I remember as extremely dark times for both of us. He has been through horrible things (horrible treatment, and eventual complete falling out with his father number one), all of which I recognized as the cause of his fight to be happy. However, I NEVER thought of it as a mental illness, just very sad, and something he needed to CHOOSE to overcome.

Over the past several years, he has used marijuana, most times behind my back before confessing in tears how he had been using it and how desperately he needed it to medicate for his depression. I never listened, and continued to stand firm that it was unacceptable to me, period. I HATED it. (…long winded, see next post!)

February 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm
(22) concerned wife says:

(continued from last post….)

Finally this year, I saw how bad the depression was affecting him. Weeping he begged me to let him help himself. He loves us, all of us, he doesn’t know why with the love in his life he can’t find joy. He confessed it was getting so dark, that suicide was crossing his mind more and more. I finally listened to his case for marijuana. He told me how he has tired for a while using it again and how much happier he was, how much more he enjoyed all of us, how he was able to find joy…but the guilt of doing this behind my back was killing him. He had stopped smoking, and the spiral downward was catastrophic, he had zero motivation, zero joy, much darkness, much suffering inside. I finally loved him enough to let go of my stereotype, to realize this was serious, I needed to LISTEN, not just about the darkness, I always did, but was so sure I could just love him out of it. He did not want pharmaceutical chemicals in his body, he felt marijuana was so much healthier, and he, like I does not trust the junk doctors are willing to fill us with. SO, with many conversations, tears, fears, and walking together I agreed that he needed to care for himself, and if this works, he needs to feel free to do it, without the guilt.

What now? He smokes two tiny tokes from a pipe most days, but not all. He has joy, he smiles all the time, out marriage is in a better place, our love for one another has only deepened from walking this together, he feels loved AND listened to, and respected for his RIGHT to care for himself, his children have their Daddy back, and not just “there” in person, but there to enjoy them as they grow! (….continued)

February 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm
(23) concerned wife says:

(….final post, I promise!)

What now? He smokes two tiny tokes from a pipe most days, but not all. He has joy, he smiles all the time, out marriage is in a better place, our love for one another has only deepened from walking this together, he feels loved AND listened to, and respected for his RIGHT to care for himself, his children have their Daddy back, and not just “there” in person, but there to enjoy them as they grow!

I still occasionally struggle with the sterotype I so ingrained into my mind of “pot heads”, but when I do, we talk about it, and I remember how important this is to my husbands well being, that he has a right to be happy, and that I love him enough to trust his judgement, and that I want him to LIVE, literally. He understands me, and I him, and our intimacy has deepened. The secrecy of the drug is gone, he doesn’t flaunt it, but he has no need to hide it, just being with him a time or two while he smoked got rid of the “need to

February 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm
(24) concerned wife says:

(oops, lol, hate me yet?)

“need to know” in me, and made me realize the extremely small amount it really was he needed. In the past his doctor told him his pot use was “self medicating” and he has never tried to argue him out of using it, I believe he thinks it’s better than the other junk he would be able to offer.

This is just one story, one I’m not particularly proud of, but in the end I was able to give my head a shake and get past the notions that society had ingrained in me. My husband isn’t a “pot head” he is a wonderful man who desires to live with joy, and the medicinal properties of marijuana are allowing him to do that.

June 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm
(25) Dostoevsky says:

This study seems to be spot on for me. My whole life I have struggled with crippling depression and anxiety, I have always gone through periods of not smoking weed and smoking weed. I would always quit smoking when I had a girlfriend and I always just thought that being in a relationship made me horribly depressed and anti social, but I have come to realize in my older years (as I have moved and haven’t been able to find weed for a couple weeks) that throughout my life my pattern of depression seems to align with when I am not smoking weed.

It’s not really that when I smoke large amounts I would get depressed, but I would just be lazy and dumb and my anxiety would come back a bit, but nearly as bad as without any weed.

Now that I am older I will smoke a small amount maybe two or three times a week, maybe half or a quarter of a bowl (I make a gram last like 3 or 4 weeks) and during these periods of smoking I have very little anxiety and almost no depression. Where as off it is absolutely crippling, to the point that I hate being around anyone and don’t want to speak to anyone about anything ever. I hate life and just think about suicide and never leave my room. I have tried around 4 or 5 other anti-depressants none of them ever working and just making me worse (I’m guessing because I would stop smoking weed in hopes that they would work).

There really needs to be more research done into this, because marijuana is the only thing that can ever pull me out of my crippling social anxiety and depression which put me in a totally antisocial state.

September 8, 2012 at 1:57 am
(26) David Benson says:

Wow! So many comments related to what I’ve been studying for a decade to control my IBS and so many incomplete truths! Here’s the entire picture: the key to fighting depression, IBS, insomnia, and general chemical imbalances is proper serotonin production and regulation via these methods: 1- MOVE! Without movement, metabolism cannot generate the right kind of appetite. 2- EAT! Without food, you cannot provide the body with enough raw materials to create serotonin and other vital secretions. Movement leads to increased appetite and eating provides raw materials for necessary internal secretions. It’s really that simple! However, if good eating and increased blood flow are not enough, it’s quite true that SMALL amounts of marijuana or SMALL amounts of benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) can be incredible aids in regulating serotonin in the brain and guts. However, DO NOT COSUME marijuana every day or you will reduce serotonin regulation and slow the metabolism which is the major cause of chemical imbalances; and do not ingest more than .5 mg of Xanax during the day or 1 mg at bedtime or side effects will be ultimately unpleasant. The best thing anyone can do for themselves is MOVE YOUR ASS any way you can. When I hurt in any way, I just start walking and my body does the rest.

July 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm
(27) Anonymous says:

i believe depression is mental state yes maybe caused by chemical imbalance but mental none the less. Sometime this imbalance or state may cause a lack in motivation which causes overall problems with in ones life which differs from one to another because we a re humans and everyones body and mind react differently to the world around us . with that being said i believe if you don’t like pharmaceutical like me or they do not work for you pot is an option. I steadly use pot and even tend to over endulge at times but i have the motivation or mental state to keep a proper composure about myself. With all that i believe you can over use but with minimal side effect mainly over eating and excesive tv. But once again you must judge the effect to your own person so use proper judgment. we have to do some work on our own minds no drug is a cure.

August 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm
(28) brooks says:

I agree with most of the posts. Having suffered from depression and anxiety for nearly 30 years and having used pot as an antidrepressant for at least 25 years I have the following observations:
1. Yes, exercise and diet and interaction with others will lift feelings of depression, worthlessness, anxiety, etc., but for me the amount of exercise and social interaction consumes a serious chunk of time while providing minimal relief.
2. Unlke almost every other testimony that I have heard, pot produces no desire within me to watch TV, play video games or waste time in other unproductive activity. Rather is serves as a motivator to produce meaningful work, clean and organize, plan and act.
3. As with some other posts, my doctor is comfortable with my pot use but won’t provide me with a medical marijuana card. His view (and mine) is that it is very difficult to control the dosage and that the line between therapuetic vs, recreational/addictive use is extraordinarily difficult to define – and for a user – extraordinarily difficult not to cross. That’s the case for me, even if crossing that line doesn’t result in partying or excessive TV watching or whatever, just more work. Sometimes that can become obsessive.

I have recently been without pot and the result is (predictably) anxiety and depression. I am trying to substitute faith in the Holy Spirit for pot to control the anxiety and depression, but without much success. In closing, we’re all wired a bit differently and I’m thankful to live in a state where pot is now legal (Washington). This has allowed me to share my experience with people I love and respect within the Christian community that I wouldn’t otherwise have have felt comfortable doing.

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