Marijuana and Depression: Science, Facts and Best Strains

Depression is more than just a bad mood. Feeling constantly sad and unmotivated is something you can’t get out of easily, especially by yourself.

If you feel strangled by these feelings, you are not alone.

There are more than 300 million people suffering from depression worldwide, making it one of the most common mental disorders.

But fear not, because besides all the common treatments for depression, there is an alternative:

Cannabis.

Marijuana and depression have a unique and promising relationship.

While a number of experts claim that marijuana can be very effective in treating mood disorders, others have a completely opposite opinion.

Fortunately, as the times change and medical and recreational marijuana becomes ever more available, both clinicians and patients are willing to give a chance to this powerful herb.

Depression: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Depression is a condition that is actually beyond the normal bad mood. It’s perfectly OK to feel sad and vulnerable from time to time.

That feeling usually goes away after a few days or a week.

But if someone is sad and empty more intensely for a longer periods of time (for weeks, months or even years), with additional feelings of being hopeless and worthless, it’s probably depression that’s bothering them.

If left untreated, depression can escalate to suicide. According to the World Health Organization, around 800,000 people die each year in depression-related suicide.

Causes of Depression

There are a lot of things can trigger depressive behavioural patterns. Genetics and general personality are considered the main suspects, however, genetics are literally blamed for every other condition so this does not really explain that much.

What does explain depression is this:

Being a victim of mental, physical or sexual abuse, especially in childhood, is one of the main reasons for developing depression later on in adulthood.

Certain types of medical treatments can also cause this unwelcome state…

For instance, beta-blockers and antipsychotic drugs may have a role in developing deep depression in certain patients.

Another important cause is serious illness and substance abuse.

Losing our loved ones, going through big transitions in life, conflicts and chronic stress can all play a part in inducing this mood disorder.

Symptoms of Depression

Besides sadness, there are a number of symptoms which can occur individually or in combination, such as:

  • Difficulties concentrating and remembering details
  • Constantly feeling tired and not having enough energy
  • Sleeping disorders like insomnia, as well as sleeping too much
  • Having feeling of guilt, irritability, restlessness, hopelessness, pessimism or anxiety
  • Losing interest for everyday activities
  • Eating disorders
  • Feeling pain and having digestive problems
  • Developing suicidal thoughts

Conventional Treatments for Depression

Fighting and beating depression is not an easy feat, but it is possible.

In conventional medicine, there is no single and effective treatment for it. It usually requires a combination of drugs and lifestyle changes.

Common treatment usually includes cognitive behavioral or interpersonal therapy and/or antidepressant medications.

Some types of conventional treatments, such as specific pharmaceuticals, do not seem to have a satisfactory impact on all individuals, especially children.

And that is the main reason why people are turning to alternatives, like marijuana.

Science Behind Marijuana and Depression

Although marijuana is not the go-to treatment for depression today, throughout the history and up to the 17th century it was actually commonly used as an antidepressant.

To be precise, English clergyman Robert Burton, recommended marijuana for curing depression in his book The Anatomy of Melancholy.

As a society, we advanced quite a bit from the 1600s, however when it comes to this particular topic it feels like we’re in a standstill.

Yes, there are many people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, but the large majority of those 300 million patients do not live in an area where medicinal cannabis is legal. And still, self medicating is not an easy route these days, as the punishments in some countries go to the extremes.

Making a decision to start with medicinal cannabis is difficult, so I’ll try to shed some light on this topic by rounding up official studies dealing with the effects of cannabis on depression.

Here’s what we know so far.

Important Studies on Cannabis and Depression

Humans have the ability to produce endocannabinoids, which play a major role in motor control, appetite regulation, mood and behavior stabilization.

According to the researchers from the University of Buffalo, being under constant stress leads to producing less of these chemicals in our brain and therefore increases the possibilities for depression.

Compounds found in marijuana (called cannabinoids) stimulate our very own endocannabinoid receptors, speeding up the recovery and growth of nervous tissues.

Cannabis balances the endocannabinoid system in depression patients, which provides relief and even more chances of beating this vicious disorder.

In fact, the herb lightens up the mood and reduces other side symptoms of depression, such as loss of appetite, insomnia, anxiety etc.

This is something that has been proved by researchers all across the world, starting with the University of Utrecht.

When depressed individuals consume cannabis, a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) activates their endocannabinoid receptors and alters the negative responses to emotions and situations.

It’s also interesting that during a research in 2006, 4400 participants participated in a survey about their cannabis usage habits and feelings of depression.  According to their study:

Marijuana users, both occasional and daily, have a much lower risk of depression than those who don’t consume the herb.

The box of sadness

Can Marijuana Cause Depression?

The link between cannabis and depression is still somewhat mystical, as there has only been a handful of dependable studies.

When you browse the Internet in search of the answer above, you can only see conflicting views. Which is something that us stoners are used to, at this point.

It’s certain that there is a relationship between marijuana and depression, but no clinical trials have specifically proved that marijuana causes depression.

It seems that clinicians like to stick to the popular opinion that high doses of marijuana can cause depression, while low doses can improve the mood.

Scientists from the McGill University noticed that higher doses of synthetic THC seem to worsen the symptoms of depression and that lower doses of the same substance have an antidepressant effect.

The lack of conviction for this particular research lies in the fact that it was done on rats, rather than humans.

But what if we just decide not to rely too much on the consensus of the scientific community?

After all, where there is money there are sponsored studies.

Instead, we could just use some specific antidepressant strains to try to improve our mood and fight this horrible condition, while staying completely organic and grounded.

10 Best Strains for Depression

There are more than 800 unique cannabis strains in the world.

So when you are looking for the best strain for depression, there are a lot of questions that can pop up — should I go with Indica or Sativa strain? Do I need a strain high in THC or CBD?

Like in everything related to cannabis, there is no right answer.

It all comes down to doing the research and finding that one strain that suits your needs the best.

Here are a few suggestions to help you start your research on the right strain to aid your recovery from depression.

Harlequin (THC: 4-7%, CBD: 8-16%)

Harlequin has a 1:1 THC to CBD ratio, which is considered as the most therapeutic. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound of marijuana, which diminishes the effects of THC, so by using Harlequin, your mind will stay clear while THC works to relieve other symptoms of depression.

Northern Lights (THC: 16% – 21%)

If you’re looking to find a good strain to use after a tough day, this is the one. This extremely potent Indica will calm down your mind and body, relieving it from chronic stress and depression. Be prepared for munches and that ever-so-welcome couch lock.

Kill Bill (THC: 15-19%)

Kill Bill is a great strain for treating depression and its side symptoms such as stress, pain and appetite loss. It relaxes the entire body but provides you with a lot of motivation, which is completely necessary for day-to -day activities.

Amnesia Haze (THC 20-22%, CBD: 1%)

An extraordinary strain popularized in Amsterdam, Amnesia Haze is very high in THC, with just enough CBD to help you unwind. It’s perfect for daytime use, as it is energizing and euphoric.

Jack Herer (THC: 23%, CBN: 1%)

Very uplifting strain, great for boosting energy, feelings of happiness, focus and creativity. It’s recommended for daytime use when you have to do your everyday activities since it makes the mind clear.

Sour Diesel (THC: 26%, CBD: 2%)

One of the best strains for medical patients, Sour Diesel provides instant relief, giving you energy and a gust of creativity. It’s very commonly used among depression and anxiety patients.

Pineapple Express (THC: 25%, CBN: 1%)

Pineapple Express is used for a number of medical conditions, especially for stress and depression. It will give you enough energy to go about your day but will calm you down at the same time. This one is perfect for daytime use.

AK-47 (THC: 13-20%, CBD: 1%)

This strain is a good choice for those suffering from pain and other symptoms of depression. It relaxes the body but makes you very social and creative.

Lamb’s Bread (THC: 19-25%, CBD: 1%)

This strain originated in Jamaica. It produces uplifting, happy, euphoric and creative effects. Perfect for daytime use, Lamb’s Bread eases depression and everyday chronic stress almost immediately.

Jilly Bean (THC: 16-21%, CBD: 1%)

When you try Jilly Bean, you’ll feel its effects just a few moments after you smoked it. It will make you euphoric, happy, and productive. As its starts to wear off, it will relax your body, which makes it perfect for fighting depression.

Before you start experimenting with marijuana for depression, talk to your cannabis-friendly doctor who can check all your symptoms and give you some more advice on choosing the right strain.

Remember, finding the right strain is a process, so stay patient and informed.


In charge of Greencamp’s health section, with a decade long experience of using cannabis for stress relief. Her spare time is mostly divided between Irish dance and reading.

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