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Dr. Allan Frankel discusses the correlation between anxiety and insomnia, and treatment with cannabis.



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The relationship between cannabis and marijuana has been a controversial one in psychiatric circles and even among interested individuals for years. Can cannabis cause depression? Or can depression be actually healed, or at least eased, by cannabis? Anecdotal evidence says that people who are regular recreational users of cannabis, as well as patients who use cannabis oil for treatment, are much more relaxed, or better yet happier, than non-users. However, there might be a level of truth to the claims that cannabis might worsen a patient’s levels of depression. We’ll get to look into that.

Dr. Lucy Troup, who studies cognitive neuroscience at Colorado State University, conducted a two-year-long study to see how marijuana influenced people’s emotional processing abilities. During the two-year period of the study, Dr. Troup scrutinized the long-term effects of marijuana on 70 participants who range from being casual or social smokers, chronic regular smokers, or even people who tried cannabis just once or twice in their life. Dr. Troup reported to “Broadly" there being three parts to the study: an implicit emotion test, an explicit emotion test, and an empathy test, where the participants were exposed to others expressing facial emotion, ranging from positive to neutral to negative emotions, and the volunteers were asked to read these facial expressions and were rated according to their ability to empathize. The striking results showed that the higher the rate of cannabis use a person reported, the lower the empathy ratings they had.

What could be inferred from these results is that cannabis use might dial down a person’s emotional processing to a certain degree. Of course, this might not be the desired result in general, since empathizing with others does give you the motives to behave morally and considerately. However, for people with severe depression, very often the reason is an excess in empathizing, where the patient’s suffering of a depressive disorder is rooted in them being emotionally uneasy about other people’s situations and problems as if they were their own, which simply piles up the feelings of depression. In such cases, a toning down of empathy does indeed become a desired result and marijuana is apparently a way to achieve it. Also, the hindrance of excessive emotional processing can serve as a shield for a patient with depression from the negativity surrounding them.

A study conducted at McGill University back in 2007 showed that low doses of THC can cause an increase in serotonin levels. Although it is not quite confirmed that depression is caused by a decrease in levels of serotonin, most medications or antidepressants do work on increasing serotonin in the patient’s body. It was also found in the same study that after a certain point, the increase in serotonin might actually cause a more severe depression, which is very possibly the reason that there is counter-evidence that suggests that marijuana can worsen the state of patients with depression. Therefore, the doses taken by a patient with depression must be carefully monitored to remain within the curative levels.

 A group of neuroscientists from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo found that cases of depression that are caused by chronic stress might be helped by the doses of the cannabinoids found in cannabis. The research found that chronic stress might interfere with the flow of endocannabinoids in the brain, which are substances that react with certain brain receptors, affecting a person’s cognition, emotion, movement, and general behavior. It was found that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, thus worsening the state of each of these aspects of a person’s mental health. Endocannabinoids are almost exactly similar to the cannabinoids found in marijuana, particularly THC, hence the use of cannabis brings the functioning of these brain receptors back to normal levels, thus alleviating many symptoms of depression. The researchers found in their experiments that with the use of marijuana, the feelings of pain and anxiety a patient with depression might be experiencing are massively reduced, their appetite is increased along with their overall sense of well-being. “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression," said the lead researcher Dr. Samir Haj-Dahmane in a university press release.

 Another study published in 2014 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found that the cannabinoids stimulated the brain centers in a way that prevented and alleviated some of the behavioral and psychological effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It was also stated that both disorders, meaning PTSD and depression, involved a brain reaction to a state of excessive stress, which as I mentioned earlier interferes with the body’s production of endocannabinoids, which explains why the use of cannabis which includes similar cannabinoids helps substantially in such cases. Another 2014 study showed that patients who were regular users of cannabis experienced a 75% decrease in PTSD symptoms.

 There is enough evidence today to how cannabis, preferably cannabis oil, can alleviate the pains a patient with depression gets to endure. The reason marijuana in its oil form, or Rick Simpson oil as it is widely known now, is more effective in treating depression, is that with cannabis oil a person can very minutely choose their doses. Since depression has the special case of requiring very specific levels of serotonin that is increased by the THC in marijuana, after which an increase in depression can occur, the use of cannabis oil will enable the patient to make sure the doses they are taking are not too big as to trigger stronger feelings of depression.

 “I started experiencing feelings of deep depression during my second year in college. At first, I didn’t know it was depression. I was just feeling down all the time, not wanting to do anything or participate in any social gatherings. I started seeing a therapist for a while, who diagnosed me with clinical depression. He prescribed for me a combination of antidepressants, like Zoloft, then Prozac, then Seroxat, and they were working in the sense of numbing me down. But I wasn’t actually feeling happy, I wasn’t feeling at all. I decided to quit them at once because they were starting to harm me in several ways, including sexually. Then I heard that marijuana can help with my case. A friend of mine told me she can make cannabis oil and she told me how it works wonders with depression. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and since then I am back to normal. I had forgotten how it was before my depression, but now thanks to cannabis oil I’m back to feeling, eating, and thinking normally."

 “I was diagnosed with chronic depression after my mom passed away. She was like my best friend so it affected me severely, and I made my peace at that time with the fact that I will never feel normal again. I will stay depressed, wrapped around myself all the time, not leaving home except for cases of necessity, especially that I work from home which I wasn’t doing very well either. Then one time I heard testimony on Youtube from someone who used to suffer severe depression. The man was saying how he used Rick Simpson oil and how it helped him with the depression as well as cured the side effects he suffered from his earlier use of prescription anti-depressant pills. I had never heard of that oil so I researched it and I found the recipe. I called a friend who I knew would be able to get me some cannabis, and I started making the cannabis oil myself. I have been using it for 5 months now and I can confidently say I am in better shape than I ever was before that whole painful experience. I’m in a level of well-being that I never imagined during my suffering that I will ever get to experience thanks to Rick Simpson Oil."

 “When I started feeling depressed, that was around my senior year in high school. I lived with depression for 8 full years. It was in a constant state of grief, a sense of not belonging, feeling unloved and unwanted even though I had people around me who cared for me. I went from one therapist to the other in a search for one prescription pill that would alleviate my pain. Whatever name of an antidepressant pops into your mind, I probably took it for a while; Celexa, Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, until the end of the list. I wasn’t feeling any better, I actually just had a number of side effects added to the pains I had to suffer, from nausea to insomnia to a loss of any sexual desire. They basically left me more dysfunctional. Then a doctor friend of mine advised me to use cannabis oil. At first, I felt it was a bit strange, but I was really desperate for a solution, so I gave it a try. I have nothing to say other than that marijuana oil simply pumped new life into me. I recovered from my 8-year-long depression, and I even recovered from the side effects the pills were causing me. It’s simply magical."

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