Depression has been in the news a lot lately, with the unfortunate deaths of high well known celebrities like Anthony Bourdaine and Kate Spade. As well as the CDC report that depression is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Depression is an extremely common illness that affects one in 15 people a year, and an estimated one in six people at some time in their life, according to American Psychiatric Association. It can be an incredibly debilitating illness as anyone who has experienced it, or has a loved one who has, will agree.
Although there no way to effectively cure depression permanently, there are many ways to alleviate the symptoms and improve the sufferer’s situation. Like many medications that treat depression, CBD is only intended to help to lessen the burden of depression, and improve your emotional and psychological state.
What Is Depression?
Depression is an illness that some are predisposed with (born with), whilst others may experience it following a tragic event or trauma. Whatever the cause, the symptoms are always the same: fatigue, loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, change in weight, lethargy, and more.
Although the cause of depression is still widely debated in the scientific community, it is believed that it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The levels of neurotransmitters are noticeably reduced in our brain during depression, but that is seen as a symptom rather than a cause.
Serotonin and dopamine are two of the main neurotransmitters affected by depression. Both of these are affected by diet, mood, exercise, mental state and levels of stress, all of which are directly impacted by depression. Because of this connection, scientists believe that people experience reduced levels of serotonin and dopamine during bouts of depression. This is where CBD comes into play.
What Can CBD Do For Depression?
SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a common form of medication for depression and anxiety. As the name suggests, they are used to rebalance the chemicals in the brain, particularly serotonin. They increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, thereby increasing the transmission of serotonin signals between cells, which reduces the symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, SSRIs have a long list of dangerous side effects and potential adverse reactions (one of which can be suicidal thoughts!), so people have begun seeking out more natural treatments, free of dangerous side effects and toxic chemicals.
CBD has also been shown to improve signalling between receptors. A study in Spain performed on animals showed that CBD can increase the transmissions of the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A and may actually affect serotonin faster and more effectively than SSRIs.
Furthermore, stress can be a major cause of depression and cannabis has been shown to alleviate stress levels, as well as balance moods. One study found that the THC found in CBD can change the way people perceive negative images and stressors by triggering the endocannabinoid system in the brain, a system which is affected when someone intakes cannabis and CBD.
The hippocampus is a major part of the brain that impacts many functions, primarily cognitive thinking and memory. Brain scans of patients with depression typically find a smaller hippocampus. This has been attributed as an important symptom of depression and as such, stimulation of neurons in this region of the brain has been found to be highly productive in the treatment of depressive disorders.
A study done on mice found that regular and regulated consumption of CBD can help to regenerate neurons in the hippocampus, thus helping to alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. A comparison study found that both SSRI and CBD can improve and stimulate neuron regeneration at similar rates.
It’s important to note that CBD as a treatment for depression is still a relatively new thing, and while early studies are extreamly promising, you should always consult with your health care provider before changing to CBD as your primary treatment.