We all have those moment of feeling sad and low, where things look dim and hopeless and carrying on feels like a chore. Despite this, we usually find the strength to work through these moments, process our feelings and pick ourselves up again.
But sometimes sadness can grab hold, diminishing our ability to enjoy activities, people and relationships. Our brains and bodies start slowing down, we feel tired, worthless and guilty. And when these feelings start permeating and affecting almost every aspect of our lives on a daily basis, clinical depression is diagnosed.
Typically clinical depression is treated with antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). But for many people the medications are worse than the condition. These drugs come with a wide variety of side-effects . These can range from the relatively benign such as nausea and dry mouth to the more severe such as increased feelings of anxiety and even an increased risk of suicide.
HOW SADNESS BECOMES DEPRESSION
In the past scientists, physicians and psychiatrists believed that depression is caused by a serotonin imbalance – the neurotransmitter thought responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.
But, as we learn more about depression, it has become clear that it is also linked to other factors such as inflammation, structural brain changes as a result from disease, trauma or stress, genetics as well as other psycho-social factors like chronic stress and a lack of social support.
And although there is no denying that serotonin is part of a bigger neurochemical picture, it is by far not the whole story of what goes on in the brain when it comes to depression. Scientists have found that endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an under-active endocannabinoid system (ECS), as well as hippocampal atrophy are just as important, if not more so, than just serotonin levels alone for developing clinical depression.
Scientists have also found that deficient endocannabinoid levels leading to altered serotonin levels as well as reducing neurogenesis.
The Long-Term Effects Of Depression On The Body
Although depression is technically a mental disorder, it also affects our physical health and well-being in a variety of ways. Especially if left untreated, depression can actually changes your brain structure and along with it many of the hormones and neurochemical which regulate our physiological functioning. Because of this, depression can cause havoc on almost every physiological system – especially if left untreated.
Long-term effects on health and wellbeing can include:
- Trouble with memory and decision making
- Increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Weakened immune system
- Weight fluctuations which can lead to metabolic disorders, insulin resistance and eventually Type II diabetes
HOW CBD CAN HELP DEPRESSION
A growing number of people are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) to help treat and recover from clinical depression. And although there is still a lot of research that needs to be done with regard to using CBD for the treatment of depression, scientists are optimistic.
CBD for Depression: Endocannabinoids & The ECS
Cannabinoid receptors along with endocannabinoids are present throughout the limbic system, the part of the brain that considered the “emotional brain”.
These endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors modulate and regulate the release and uptake of neurotransmitters between nerve cells, helping neurochemical messages to effectively be relayed from one part of the brain to another.
But they also play a direct role in how we feel. Endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), which interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors which are located on presynaptic membranes in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissues. They help regulating our emotions and cognitive functioning, by eliciting potent effects on neurotransmission, neuroendocrine, and inflammatory processes. This in turn helps us effectively respond and adapt to stress. But when there aren’t enough of these endocannabinoids to go around, the ECS becomes imbalanced and we can end up developing clinical depression.
There is now also a growing body of evidence suggesting that not only do endocannabinoids and the ECS plays a major role in the development of depression, but also its treatment. In other words, when this system doesn’t work properly, it can cause us to become depressed. But if the ECS is kick-started back up, it has powerful anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects, effectively helping us to recover from our depression.
One way to kick-start the ECS is by introducing plant cannabinoids such as CBD back into the body. For instance, in a 2011 study, researchers found that CBD regulates the ECS and restores endocannabinoid signalling. And what’s more is that CBD facilitates endocannabinoid signaling so efficiently that it produces all of the behavioral and biochemical effects of conventional antidepressant treatments.
CBD for Depression: Serotonin
One of the reasons why SSRI’s and other antidepressant medications are prescribed is because of the way in which they interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. As the name suggests, they block the reuptake of serotonin, increasing its availability. This then allows more serotonin to bind to receptors, causing the brain to send out more of the serotonin signals which help to boost mood.
CBD works in a similar way by helping to regulate and enhance the activity in the serotonin receptors, specifically the 5-HT(1A) receptors which play a role in mood. In fact, CBD has been shown to be so good at boosting serotonin and glutamate levels that it is comparable the well-known antidepressant Imipramine in relieving depression.
CBD for Depression: Neurogenesis
As mentioned before, the brain region that deals with emotion, the hippocampus, shows up as being smaller in brain scans of people with depression, than for people without depression. The data also shows that the more atrophied the hippocampus is, the more severely depressed the person is.
Luckily, the hippocampus also has the ability to recover if it is spurred to grow new nerve cells through a process called neurogenesis. And it is because of this ability that scientists now believe that the main reason for their success is because they help to stimulate neural growth in the hippocampus. This could also account for the delay in its effects – the brain needs some time to grow the new neurons.
However, SSRI’s are not the only way in which to stimulate neurogenesis in the brain. Because neurogenesis is partially modulated by the ECS, making it a great target for helping to stimulate new nerve cells to form.
The CB1 receptor is found over the whole hippocampus, and scientists believe that a CB1 receptor deficiency is a major underlying factor of why the endocannabinoids that play a role in mood cannot do their job. Scientists have now shown that CBD interacts with these CB1 receptors, encouraging neural regeneration, particularly in the brain area called the hippocampus.
HOW TO USE CBD FOR DEPRESSION
If you are considering supplementing with CBD to help you recover from clinical depression, it is important to understand that CBD is not a cure-all. CBD works best as part of a comprehensive and wholistic depression treatment plan.
Similarly, look for a high-quality CBD product which has been third-party tested for purity and strength to ensure that you are getting an effective and safe product.
DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult with a physician if you have a serious medical condition or use prescription medications. A doctor’s advice should always be sought before before embarking on any new treatment.