Depression and anxiety are two mental health disorders people struggle with. It drastically hinders the lives of those affected. The two have a co-occurrence rate of as much as 80%, meaning most people suffering experience them both. This coexistence makes diagnoses more difficult to manage. In fact, only 36.9% of those with anxiety disorders receive proper treatment. As research investigates mental health disorders more, the associated stigmas lessen. However, the problem isn’t solved and mental health continues to be a challenge for many.

New discussions examine various therapies for depression and anxiety symptoms. Among these are medical cannabis and CBD.


Cannabis and CBD Oil, Cannabinoid Game-Changers


Cannabinoids chemicals are prevalent in many plants, primarily cannabis. THC and CBD are two of the more well-known cannabinoids present in cannabis. The body also produces its own natural cannabinoids, playing a major role in the maintenance of homeostasis (balance) across multiple organ systems.


It’s important to first understand the difference in THC and CBD. Their three-lettered acronyms are short, but there are significant differences between the two.

The Two Main Players, CBD and THC


Different strains of cannabis contain varying ratios of THC and CBD. Chemically, these compounds are exactly the same. The difference is how atoms are arranged and how the substances interact at the cellular level in the body. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric high, but CBD presents no such effect. It doesn’t cause the same mental status changes as THC. In fact, CBD is actually capable of diminishing THC’s effects. Since CBD provides health benefits of cannabis without the high, it is a desirable alternative for those without access to THC.


Depending on the individual, the reason for use, and local laws, various ratios of THC and CBD are available for consumption—THC-rich, CBD-rich, or balanced cannabis strains may prove beneficial among those searching for anxiety and depression relief.


Cannabinoids, Depression, and Anxiety: How it Works


While cannabis is used for its medicinal properties, academia sees the potential in CBD and THC in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Studies are available on the effects CBD and THC has on mood, mental health, anxiety, and depression.


The Endocannabinoid System


Cannabinoids help maintain balance in the body by acting on the endocannabinoid system. This signaling system is present throughout the body and affects the brain and nervous system. The endocannabinoid system influences the digestive system, the reproductive system, and the body’s immune capabilities. Cannabinoids are the key to this communication.


Cannabinoids and Mental Illness


Serotonin and other neurotransmitters are associated with depression and anxiety. Popular prescription medications such as Prozac, Lexapro, and Zoloft help treat these symptoms. While research provides us causes for depression and anxiety, the focus is shifting toward the effects of the endocannabinoid system.


Current Research


Studies provide insight surrounding the manifestation of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. When naturally-produced cannabinoids aren’t abundantly available in the body,  the release of neurotransmitters diminishes.


When the mood regulation controlled by the endocannabinoid system cannot occur, a growing amount of research evidence has concluded that the increased presence of depressive and anxiety-like symptoms may manifest. In order to counteract these negative effects, ingesting cannabinoids from outside sources can bolster the endocannabinoid system’s reserves. At least enough to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Aside from its profound effects on the endocannabinoid system, CBD is a versatile compound. It is capable of targeting more than 65 molecular targets within the body. One molecular pathway where CBD exerts its effects is the serotonin pathway, a well-known target of the depression- and anxiety-fighting prescription medications mentioned above. Like these drugs, research suggests CBD increases the body’s serotonin receptor activity. This reduces the presence of symptoms classic to anxiety and depression.


A New Hope


Thanks to the abundance of research surrounding cannabis and its derivatives, some individuals struggling with anxiety and depression have found hope.


Despite the increasingly mainstream appeal of medical cannabis and CBD as treatments for anxiety and depression, it’s still advisable to speak to your doctor before pursuing one of these options for your own routine wellness. These professionals should be aware of the vast potential of cannabinoids and may be able to advise you about potential drug interactions, side effects, and dosages.