CBD and depression

I suffer with depression, can CBD help me?

Last updated: 07.07.2021

Depression is one of the most common and most underestimated conditions. Whilst there has been an increase in people feeling more able to talk about mental health in recent years, depression is still a condition that many people suffer with in silence.

And it's no surprise that the levels of depression are soaring during the coranavirus lockdowns.

There are many different causes, as well as treatment options for depression. Some treatments work very well for people, whilst some people suffer with side effects.

We know that many people are using CBD for its health benefits. A growing number of people are now using CBD oil or other CBD products to help with depression. Although the feedback for how helpful CBD is for depression is somewhat mixed.

Although clear clinical trials (in humans) have so far been lacking, there is already promising evidence of the potential effectiveness of CBD on depression.

In this article, we look at the current situation to improve your understanding of CBD in relation to depression.

CBD and depression

CBD and depression... in a nutshell

  • Studies suggest that CBD -which is the abbreviation for cannabidiol - may stimulate hippocampal healing (neurogenesis).
  • Both THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD have already proven beneficial in animal studies for depression. However, this has not yet been studied in humans.

A quick recap... what is CBD?

CBD, the shorthand for cannabidiol, is one of the many active ingredients in the cannabis plant.

Unlike the better-known substance THC, CBD is not psychoactive, does not lead to physical dependence and produces no psychoactive effects, i.e. it does not get you ‘high’ and will not lead to addiction. The World Health Organization confirms this in its 2018 where it states CBD is a safe substance.

CBD can actually be used for a wide variety of medical conditions as well as for general well-being. Much like vitamins. In addition to this people sometimes use CBD to keep calm and relaxed, for example when public speaking.

What's more, CBD is legal in the UK, but be sure of the contents of the specific CBD product you purchase.

There are a number of ways to take CBD, but the most common appears to be CBD oil, this may be due to its strength and to the fact that it is one of the most fast-acting methods. CBD oil tinctures normally come with a pipette, the CBD oil is administered under the tongue and should take effect within a few minutes.

Other methods include CBD topical cream, CBD vape liquid, CBD gummies and CBD chocolate. But the list is rapidly growing in line with CBD's popularity.

Collected experiences on CBD with depression

Experiences of using of CBD for depression are mainly subjective and each person may react to the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) differently. Also, at this point with limited research, CBD should not replace medical therapy.

It's also worth reading the vast number of testimonials on forums like Reddit and Quora with a critical eye and remembering that these are subjective.

Nevertheless, these are are our impressions from the information on forums - it's a mixed bag:

  • Some users state that CBD has helped them with depression. The effect is mostly described as mild. It is often assumed that CBD should be particularly effective for panic attacks and anxiety.
  • In some cases, THC is perceived as more effective against depression than CBD.
  • Other sufferers felt that CBD had hardly helped with depression, but it is often pointed out that CBD had a pleasantly relaxing effect.

man-sits-on-chair-head-in-hands-struggling-with-mental-health
In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health
problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Depression is a mental disorder that is typically characterised by a number of symptoms:

  • Sadness, hopelessness
  • Disinterestedness and joylessness
  • Loss of appetite, eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt and low self-esteem
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Recurring thoughts of death, dying, or suicide

If you recognise yourself in these symptoms, we strongly advise you to contact a doctor. If you need urgent help then you can find the right helpline on this NHS website (England only) or via charities listed here.

Who suffers from depression?

Anyone can suffer from depression and the sad news is a lot of people do. Worldwide. And the figures are rising sharply. Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

It is often reported that women are affected by depression about more than men. These findings are often unhelpful however, as research also shows, for example, that 3 times as many men die by suicide than women. It is important to recognise that societal expections can result in people - of all genders - feeling unable to talk about depression due to traditional gender roles.

In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

In 2016, 3.3 in 100 people were reported to be suffering from depression

The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.

This, unfortunately, will only be exacerbated in the current economic climate.

The number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is also increasing.

The number of antidepressants being used has also been increasing steadily for years. It is estimated that around 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. According to the WHO, depression or mood disorders will be the second most common disease worldwide in 2020.

What are the causes of depression?

The causes of depression are complex and depend on individual circumstances. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there is no panacea for depression. The same must also be said for CBD - this is not a cure for depression, but may be able to help alleviate some of the symptoms and feelings.

CBD and coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic is inevitably piling pressure on people from all sorts of walks of life. It's a sad fact that, whether from the virus itself, the economic or financial pressures people face, or even the restricted social activities, everyone in our country is impacted by the pandemic and the Covid lockdowns.

Depression is a real threat for a lot of people, and professional advice and help should be sought by anyone at risk.

Does CBD increase serotonin?

It is believed that the potential benefits of CBD for depression are related to its positive effect on the brain’s serotonin receptors.

Low serotonin levels are believed to be connected to depression. CBD doesn’t necessarily boost serotonin levels, but it may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s already in your system. We go into quite a bit of detail on how CBD works in the human body here.

A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on these receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.

Serotonin deficiency is not the sole cause

Many people believe that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the body. In particular, the lack of serotonin or noradrenaline is often blamed in this context.

This is not entirely wrong, but it doesn't reflect the full picture. That's because these messenger substances are only part of the whole system. Depression often also has causes that can be found in the person's individual circumstances.

In fact, there are a number of psychosocial and neurobiological factors known in science that can cause or promote depression:

  • Genetic factors (inheritance)
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Imbalance of messenger substances in the brain
  • Social isolation
  • Chronic stress or overload
  • Specific life events, losses
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Physical illness or physical pain, including chronic pain
  • Other emotional disorders
serotonin-equation
It is believed that CBD’s potential benefits for depression are related to its positive effect on the brain’s serotonin receptors.

How can depression be treated therapeutically?

To treat depression, psychotherapy is regularly combined with specific medications (pharmacotherapy).

Examples of psychotherapies are cognitive behavior therapy, problem solving therapy and interpersonal therapy.

These treatment methods aim to support those affected in the independent development of positive thinking and behaviour patterns.

Medications used to treat depression belong to different classes and have different mechanisms of action, properties and side effects.

  • Antidepressants belong to the group of psychotropic drugs.
  • Antipsychotics and neuroleptics, which are used to treat schizophrenia and delusional depression, can be clearly distinguished from antidepressants.
  • Anxiolytics / hypnotics are sedatives and sleeping pills.

Research suggests that these can alleviate depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety disorder. Nevertheless, it can often take weeks or more until the medication is in your system and you start to feel the benefits.

Whilst many people manage well with antidepressants, there can be some very strong side effects.

More and more people are using psychiatric drugs

The spread of psychotropic drugs is particularly strong in the US. In 2013, a total of 16.7% of 242 million adults in the United States reported using psychiatric drugs, according to the American Medical Association's (JAMA Internal Medicine)

Overall, 12% of American adults reported taking antidepressants. 8.3% took anti-anxiety medication, tranquilizers or sleeping pills, 1.6% took antipsychotics.

Interestingly, large differences in race and ethnicity were found.

The largest group of psychotropic drug users are white Americans. 20.8% of this group stated that they had consumed psychotropic drugs in 2013.

psychiatric-drugs-spilling-out-of-a-bottle
Many people who take medication for depression describe being left in a 'zombie-like' state, could CBD be an alternative therapy?

How could CBD work for depression?

Bear with us - we will get to CBD's potential role in this! But it's important to explain a few things first.

Antidepressants affect the effect of messenger substances. Put simply, this means that by taking this medication, the return of happiness hormones to cells is blocked. This generally increases the level of serotonin.

Research shows that in people with depression, a specific part of the brain - the hippocampus - is often reduced in size. The hippocampus is responsible for memory, learning and for emotions.

Fortunately, the brain has the ability to rewire and change long into old age. The hippocampus can recover through the formation of new nerve cells. This is referred to as neurogenesis.

Antidepressants stimulate the regeneration of nerve cells and thus the neurogenesis of the hippocampus. However, an immediate cure should not expected.

Reconstruction of the nerve cells is a process that can take several weeks. Therefore, the effect of such antidepressants often occurs later.

In addition, some practical everyday life tips can support healing. Some find these ‘tips’ useful, some don’t. But here’s one we liked - it has been scientifically proven that pets are good for people who suffer with depression.

Back to nerve cell reconstruction… which is where CBD comes into play because it has been scientifically proven that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

A 2017 study proves that CBD protects the nerve cells in the hippocampus. For this reason, CBD is already approved in the United States as a drug for epilepsy. Why is that important?

The hippocampus, which is found in the brain, often shrinks when said brain’s owner suffers from depression. This reduction (also called atrophy) could be counteracted by CBD by protecting the nerve cells.

How exactly does CBD work for depression?

The body's own cannabinoids (not all cannabinoids come from cannabis or even externally to the human body) are used throughout the brain and body to regulate body functions. Memory, appetite, inflammation are controlled by these, for example.

The effects of CBD on the endocannabinoid system are quite complex and have not yet been fully researched.

However, in animal experiments with mice, CBD was able to increase the anandamide level in the hippocampus, which in turn stimulated neuron growth. In other words, new nerve cells could be formed in the hippocampus.

CBD has been shown to activate the 5-HT 1A serotonin receptor. These receptors can also increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus, as shown in a separate study with the anxiety drug buspirone on the opossum. Therefore, it seems likely that CBD could have similar effects. Another study showed that CBD could increase serotonin and glutamate levels. The results of the scientists indicates that CBD could have a fast and lasting antidepressant-like effect.

Indications that CBD could help with depression

CBD therefore supports the protection and growth of neurons. But what does this mean in practice for the potential treatment of a complex illness such as depression with CBD?

Although large-scale studies in humans have not yet been carried out, there are some promising indications and experiments:

  • Indications :

    Medical cannabis: In the United States, where medical marijuana is available in some states, suicide rates in men aged 20-39 decrease by about 10%.

The Rimonabant case : A few years ago a weight loss medication was developed that works in exactly the opposite way to cannabis, namely rimonabant. The result of this is the inhibition of the body's endocannabinoid system. However, it was stopped shortly afterwards because it drastically increased the risk of depression and suicide.

  • Experimental studies :

    Experiments on rodents are also promising. CBD helped relieve depression in rats.

    Another study found that a single dose of CBD had a rapid antidepressant effect in both mice and rats that lasted up to seven days after treatment.

    Another study concluded that the antidepressant effects of CBD in combination with an SSRI were even more effective in mice.

    (We won't get into the ethics of testing on animals, but in case you're curious about how scientists measure rodent depression... they do it by swimming. The most common experiment is to put mice or rats in deep water and record how long they keep swimming. Those who give up faster are considered depressed. Don't worry - the scientists won't let them drown.)

woman-looks-hopeful-as-she-looks-out-of-a-window
A number of studies on the effect of CBD on depression leave us hopeful that CBD can be used as a potential and effective treatment for depression.

What CBD products are there for depression?

According to our research, there are currently no CBD oils or other products only for depression. However, when people look to use CBD for depression, CBD oils are the most common product.

Overall, CBD could be taken as a dietary supplement, food, and/or medication for depression:

There is no one way to dose CBD generally and the same is true when using CBD to help alleviate symptoms of depression. With oils, for example, it really depends on the amount of CBD that the CBD oil contains and also on your personal condition.

And of course how severe your symptoms are. Everyone reacts differently to CBD oil. Just as many people’s experience of depression differs.

Many sufferers recommend starting with the dosage of the CBD oil very low and checking how you feel about it. After a few weeks, the dosage can be gradually increased.

Should I take CBD Oil in the morning or at night?

There is no ideal time to take CBD, however it is better if you take the CBD at the same time every day, for consistency. Some users who have experienced the side effect of drowsiness reported they prefer to take the CBD at night time, others reported feeling more awake, and take their CBD in the morning.

Can you take CBD with antidepressants?

There are a large number of medications - including CBD - which are broken down by the same large family of liver enzymes. CBD inhibits some enzymes in this family. This makes them break down certain drugs more slowly, which could potentially increase side effects. There are some anti-depressants which are included in this category. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you discuss the use of CBD with your doctor.

bottle-of-cbd-capsules-pouring-out
There are some anti-depressants which could potentially increase side effects - always consult your doctor.

Our conclusion

It takes time and patience for the symptoms of depression to be relieved. The brain has to reposition itself, and positive thinking and behaviour patterns have to be learned or adapted.

Even neurologically, there is no immediate improvement. Even powerful antidepressants can take time to support rewiring the brain. CBD cannot be an emergency aid for depression.

However, as described in this article, there are interesting indications that CBD could help alleviate depression, especially as part of a long-term recovery plan.

CBD should not be your first port of call for treating serious depression, especially if you are in an emergency situation. If you are in a crisis or even have suicidal thoughts, please call a helpline or seek professional support immediately. Please also speak to your doctor before adding CBD to your therapy. Especially if you are taking prescription medication with potential interactions.

Success stories with CBD and depression

Our success stories come from social media, other CBD websites or through people we know personally. Some people are comfortable sharing their names and products, others prefer to remain anonymous. We feel hearing other people's positive experiences are a vital part of learning about how CBD can help, although it is important to remember that not all CBD products work the same for everyone. Don't be disheartened if one product/dosage doesn't work for you... keep trying!

We'd love to hear your success stories! If you would like to share yours, please get in touch at greenandsimple@mail.com

"I suffer with Borderline Personality Disorder, severe depression and anxiety. I was on heavy meds for around 20 years. Every time I tried to ween off, I relapsed. I needed to get off the meds as they were not doing me any good. I tried a couple of CBD oils off the internet which didn't do much. Someone invited me to join the CBD Discussion Group (Facebook group) to get more info. Here I found Reverse Nature CBD. I gave it a go and within a month I was off all meds. It has worked wonders for my mental health. In the process, it has also stopped my migraines, sorted my tendinitis and stopped the pain in my lower back. Life is much better now with CBD."

- Kirk Chapman.

Kirk is now an advocate for Reverse Nature. We love Kirk's story and how he now dedicates his time to helping others.You can read Kirk's full story in our success stories section.

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