Like practically anything ingestible, abusing marijuana can lead to some side effects and perhaps psychological addiction.  However, in controlled doses, the evidence suggests that medical marijuana can actually help people combat the worst symptoms of chronic depression.

What the Tests Suggest

Studies from the University of Southern California and the University at Albany in 2005 revealed that among 4,400 participants the majority of weekly cannabis users showed signs of fewer depressed moods, positive personality shifts, and fewer physical complaints as well.  It was even noted that among respondents who consumed marijuana only on occasion, many of them showed lower levels of depression than individuals who never tried marijuana at all.  D. Mark Anderson, PhD of Montana State University, stated that there was a “sharp decrease in the suicide rate of 15- through 19-year olds males” for marijuana users than in states where cannabis was banned.  In contrast, suicide rates for alcoholism has always remained high, so much so that it prompted Daniel I. Rees, PhD, to suggest that “medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.”

The Root of Depression

Of course, just as with any prescription drug, merely taking marijuana as a coping drug without any decisive plan or lifestyle change is not conducive to lasting change.  Psychiatrists recommend cognitive therapy in addition to medicinal treatment in order to treat chronic depression.

Anecdotes and research suggesting that marijuana can cause depression are oblivious to the fact that depressed people can seek out coping drugs, with the intent of abusing them to forge the pain.  In theory, marijuana could dull a person’s energy or motivation. Therefore, if activation and engagement are required to improve a person’s unhealthy or unproductive lifestyle, then prescribing cannabis might not be the right move.

However, in terms of sheer scientific analysis, it’s clear that cannabis has been shown to mitigate insomnia, anxiety, and chronic pain—all of which are symptoms associated with depression.   In states where medicinal marijuana is allowable, many doctors have found success prescribing cannabis along with therapeutic treatment or in combination with SSRIs, including MJ treatment of schizophrenia, as Dr. Tim Karl, a senior scientist at NeuRA, reports.  There is much to learn about this wonder drug, this harmless plant, with beneficial properties.