A study published in June 2020 found that smoking cannabis flower (the buds) may provide immediate relief for symptoms of depression. The study, from the University of New Mexico, looked at 5,876 outcomes reported anonymously by 1,819 individuals who tracked their use of cannabis for treatment of depression via an app between June 2016 and July 2019. On average, patients reported an improvement of symptoms of nearly four points on a 1-to-10 scale moments after smoking whole, dried, natural cannabis flower.
The researchers noted that while most of the patients participating reported antidepressant effects, the magnitude of the effects and the side effects experienced varied depending on the properties of each plant.
Study leader Jacob Vigil, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology, wrote that “one of the more interesting findings from this study is that cannabis flower with relatively high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is particularly associated with immediate reductions in the intensity of depressive feelings.”
The study found that 95.8 percent of users experienced relief after smoking cannabis and that the intensity of their symptoms dropped by an average of 3.76 points on a 0 to 10 scale.
The investigators also reported that up to one in five individuals who used cannabis flower containing high levels of THC experienced negative side effects, such as feeling unmotivated. They further found that participants were three times as likely to experience positive effects, such as happiness, optimism, peacefulness, and relaxation.
The study is the largest so far to measure how different types of Cannabis flower affect the symptoms of depression when smoked in patients’ natural environments. The authors noted that another recent study among mostly Canadian participants found that cannabis users reported reductions of “around 50 percent” in the intensity of depression symptoms.
These are encouraging findings. If they hold up over time and in future studies, they may yield a much better way to treat depression than current approaches. Clinical depression is one of the most common types of mental disorders, affecting about 340 million people worldwide. It occurs in all age groups, social classes and cultures. It is far more common in women, affecting 25 percent of them versus about 10 percent of men, and also affects one out of every 20 teenagers.
Dr. Vigil, who led the University of New Mexico study, noted that “given the limitations and potential severe negative side effects of conventional antidepressant medications, there is a real need for people to be able to treat mood disturbances with natural, safe, and effective medications, and cannabis checks off all three boxes.”
I recommend an integrative approach to preventing and treating depression. Be aware that antidepressant medications aren’t the only available treatment option. Here’s where you can learn about the lifestyle changes, dietary modifications and supplements I recommend for dealing with depression.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Jacob Vigil et al, “The Effectiveness of Cannabis Flower for Immediate Relief from Symptoms of Depression,” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, June 29, 2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7309674/