Is Marijuana Really A Depressant? Here’s What Science Says

A man lighting a joint with his hands, so is marijuana a depressant

Many people with mental health concerns wonder, “is marijuana a depressant?” There has been research from both people and science on this subject.

Is marijuana a depressant? There has been much debate surrounding this topic, and while science might say one thing, the people that actually use marijuana might say something completely different. 

The History Of Marijuana As A Treatment For Depression

Cannabis has been used medicinally for over hundreds of years. Ancient Sanskrit texts mention cannabis as a way to lighten the body, clear the mind, and improve well-being.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major non-psychoactive component of marijuana that has been shown to have antidepressant properties. 

Preliminary studies suggest that it interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain to provide powerful therapeutic effects such as increased mood, decreased anxiety, and decreased nausea/vomiting when compared to a placebo.

From 2737 BC to 1942 AD, Chinese pharmacopeia listed cannabis to treat pain, poor appetite, and constipation. Researchers have discovered that cannabinoids like CBD and THC can reduce depression symptoms in people with treatment-resistant forms.

One study on 24 patients with treatment-resistant depression showed that CBD significantly reduced depressive symptoms after four weeks of use. Subjects who took CBD reported an average score of 12 on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), while subjects given a placebo scored an average of 20. 


According to other studies, CBD can treat both anxiety and depression simultaneously without sedation.


If you’re considering getting treated for depression with weed, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many different strains of cannabis out there, each with its own medicinal properties. You should always consult your doctor before making changes to your treatment regimen.

Research On Using Cannabis As Depressant

Weed is mostly used to relieve stress, and anxiety, but it can also have some other effects on the body. The main active ingredient in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC mimics compounds in your brain called endocannabinoids that are responsible for reducing anxiety and stress. 

These endocannabinoids are what give you the feeling of relax or high. When you smoke marijuana, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors that are located all over your body, including your brain. This binding triggers changes in nerve cell activity which causes the psychoactive effects of weed and the feeling of being high. 


If you’re taking any medications for depression, talk to your doctor about whether cannabis would interact with them before using cannabis as an alternative treatment. 


A systematic review published by the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2016 found evidence that medical marijuana could be an effective therapy option for people with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD). 

Researchers looked at 22 studies involving 1,796 participants with MDD who were either resistant to conventional therapies or had experienced serious side effects from their treatments. 

They did find that there was not enough conclusive data to make recommendations regarding the use of medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for major depressive disorder.

But they did find several studies suggesting that cannabis may be worth further study as a possible intervention strategy. 

Another 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry showed that sufferers of bipolar II disorder showed fewer manic symptoms when treated with dronabinol – a synthetic form of THC. 

It’s important to note that these studies haven’t been independently replicated. Thus, we need more research before be certain if this will work for everyone with depression. Considering the number of reports by patients claiming marijuana helps with their symptoms, it seems worth exploring.

And since weed is legal in many regions, it’s easier for those suffering from mental illness to access it without facing repercussions for illegal possession. 

Many patients report significant relief from depression when smoking or consuming small amounts of weed with low levels of THC; some say that CBD has helped even more. 

No one knows yet if smoking cannabis will be able to replace antidepressants entirely. However, many people swear by its ability to reduce the symptoms associated with depression.

Some say that combining marijuana with antidepressants allows them to get relief without experiencing debilitating side effects. 

Others say they’ve found success in using marijuana just during tough times. Moreover, it doesn’t cause some of the side effects that prescription medication does. 

Though it’s a common misconception that marijuana is addictive, the National Institute of Drug Abuse points out that cannabis dependence occurs in only 9% of users. This compares to 15% for cocaine and 23% for alcohol. 

The Science Behind Using Marijuana To Treat Depression

Studies have shown that weed can be an effective treatment for the symptoms of depression, but the exact mechanism of this effect is still unknown. THC, one of the active components in marijuana, binds to receptors in the brain called CB1 receptors. 

Endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce normally activates these receptors. Endocannabinoids help regulate mood and reduce anxiety levels. However, when THC binds to these receptors it reduces depressive feelings, including feelings of sadness or irritability. 

This process may also help regulate stress levels associating with depression and anxiety disorders. The same research on marijuana and depression indicates that cannabis could also increase motivation, which helps people suffering from depression feel better about themselves. 

The research does not definitively say whether cannabis can treat all cases of major depression. Patients who don’t respond to conventional treatments like psychotherapy or antidepressants might benefit from this alternative medicine.

Studies On Marijuana And Depression

Cannabis is a natural substance that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. It may be effective in treating depression, according to some studies.

Research shows that cannabis may help relieve symptoms of depression. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that people who used cannabis less than once per week had a lower risk of developing major depressive disorder (MDD) than those who did not use it at all.

Journal of Psychopharmacology research of 2014 found that marijuana can reduce symptoms of MDD, improve mood, and lower suicidal thoughts.

In addition, a 2015 review published in the American Journal of Public Health found that states with medical marijuana laws had significantly lower rates of suicide compared to states without such laws.

The Benefits Of Using Marijuana To Treat Ailments

Now that you know that weed can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Let’s look at other ways it can help. The benefits of using marijuana as an antidepressant are that it is relatively cheap, non-addictive, and easy to find. 

Some studies have shown that weed might help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or social anxiety disorder by easing the fear associated with these disorders.  One study from 2006 even showed a reduction in suicidal thoughts among those who used marijuana to treat their depression. 

THC helps reduce anxiety, especially social anxiety. Social anxiety affects approximately 30% of the population according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Social anxiety is a fear of being judged or embarrassed in social situations. 

This can lead to physical symptoms such as sweating and shaking hands, along with emotional symptoms like feeling nervous or embarrassed. THC works by blocking receptors in your brain that cause these physical and emotional symptoms when you’re anxious. 

CBD oil is more effective and safe then THC for people with social anxiety disorders or other mood disorders.

What Are Some Of The Other Benefits Of Cannabis?

In addition to helping out with depression, there are also a couple of other benefits of cannabis:

  1. Cannabis is a potent anti-inflammatory drug;
  2. Cannabis can help with sleep disturbances and insomnia, which are common in people with depression;
  3. It helps to relieve pain, especially chronic pain caused by inflammation or nerve damage;
  4. As an antioxidant, it protects brain from free radicals and toxins, such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, and pesticides in food;
  5. The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana helps to boost appetite in people that have eating disorders.

Final Thoughts

When you’re considering cannabis use for your ailments, it always helps to look at what real people have to say about it. The science may say one thing, but if people are consistently mentioning finding relief from their symptoms, it’s worth trying.

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