Cannabis: Potent Anti-depressant In Low Doses, Worsens Depression At High Doses

Dandelion Salad

Oct. 24, 2007

A new neurobiological study has found that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is an effective anti-depressant at low doses. However, at higher doses, the effect reverses itself and can actually worsen depression and other psychiatric conditions like psychosis.

It has been known for many years that depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain leads to depression, so SSRI-class anti-depressants like Prozac and Celexa work by enhancing the available concentration of serotonin in the brain. However, this study offers the first evidence that cannabis can also increase serotonin, at least at lower doses.

Laboratory animals were injected with the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 and then tested with the Forced Swim test — a test to measure “depression” in animals; the researchers observed an antidepressant effect of cannabinoids paralleled by an increased activity in the neurons that produce serotonin. However, increasing the cannabinoid dose beyond a set point completely undid the benefits, said Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University.

“Low doses had a potent anti-depressant effect, but when we increased the dose, the serotonin in the rats’ brains actually dropped below the level of those in the control group. So we actually demonstrated a double effect: At low doses it increases serotonin, but at higher doses the effect is devastating, completely reversed.”

The anti-depressant and intoxicating effects of cannabis are due to its chemical similarity to natural substances in the brain known as “endo-cannabinoids,” which are released under conditions of high stress or pain, explained Dr. Gobbi. They interact with the brain through structures called cannabinoid CB1 receptors. This study demonstrates for the first time that these receptors have a direct effect on the cells producing serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates the mood.

Dr. Gobbi and her colleagues were prompted to explore cannabis’ potential as an anti-depressant through anecdotal clinical evidence, she said. “As a psychiatrist, I noticed that several of my patients suffering from depression used to smoke cannabis. And in the scientific literature, we had some evidence that people treated with cannabis for multiple sclerosis or AIDS showed a big improvement in mood disorders. But there were no laboratory studies demonstrating the anti-depressant mechanism of action of cannabis.”

Because controlling the dosage of natural cannabis is difficult — particularly when it is smoked in the form of marijuana joints — there are perils associated with using it directly as an anti-depressant.

“Excessive cannabis use in people with depression poses high risk of psychosis,” said Dr. Gobbi. Instead, she and her colleagues are focusing their research on a new class of drugs which enhance the effects of the brain’s natural endo-cannabinoids.

“We know that it’s entirely possible to produce drugs which will enhance endo-cannabinoids for the treatment of pain, depression and anxiety,” she said.

The study, published in the October 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University and Le Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin of Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, affiliated with l’Université de Montréal. First author is Dr. Gobbi’s McGill PhD student Francis Bambico, along with Noam Katz and the late Dr. Guy Debonnel* of McGill’s Department of Psychiatry.

Adapted from materials provided by McGill University.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

3 thoughts on “Cannabis: Potent Anti-depressant In Low Doses, Worsens Depression At High Doses

  1. Right on, brother corneilius! I believe thelematically that the reason for any and all addiction is the suppression of important feelings. Actually, I would even go so far as to say the restriction of Any feelings known and enjoyed, for the betterment of themselves the betterment of all, can, and most likely will lead to addiction of some sort of something. I also chuckled at the addiction of “collection”. It shows that addiction is natural to any human being who restricts ANY of the Natural Hungers of Life and Love, whether it be a drug of any other natural Habit.

    With that said, I know of many , many people, who for some reason suppressed NO feelings, who smoke marijuana at large doses, and have found it to add a great lot to every day society. These people, usually the strongest, most driven individuals, are able to produce far more serotonin than the people tested for depression, unable to produce much serotonin in the first place. Therefore, the less prone you are to depression, the HAPPIER marijuana will make you. This is good news for all about the great herb. No matter your condition, AN AMOUNT of marijuana , which is sometimes big, sometimes small (and trust me, you can measure THC content with modern science), WILL BE beneficial to you.

    Let God’s Herb Free!!

  2. Another aspect that is not discussed in relation to the effects of marijuana, and many other ‘addictive’ substances’, is the pre-disposition of subjects towards depression, which is ,in itself, a root cause, and has been shown to arise from a number of factors, none related to marijuana.

    Those factors include exposure to psychological pressure at ‘school’, unhealthy parenting, stereotyping, (racism, sexism), debt , divorce and many others.

    The clinical awareness of ‘addiction’ is that it acts as a coping mechanism for people who have learned, for whatever reason, TO SUPRESS important feelings, and thus are living with aspects of their being suppressed.

    Thus one could say that perhaps many obsessive collectors of ‘stamps’, ‘bugs’, ‘cards’ or even ‘mooses heads’ are also addicted, though by being labelled a ‘hobby’ they escape censure.

    However when an adult obsesses over such a ‘collection’, and neglects herself.humself and or others in his/her life, the damage is just as real, though hidden from society.

    Those who typically fund research also make the products that are available for sanctioned legal use, which also perform the same role as the ‘addictive’ substance.

    The hypocrisy is that such ‘users’ are allowed to continue their addicted state (that of not living their feelings) as long as they pay the bill……..

    Marijuana is illegal for business reasons alone.

  3. The key phrase is- a “synthetic form of THC.” Marinol is another “synthetic form of THC,” that possesses horrible side-effects. However, most “tests” into the effects of “Marijuana” utilized this “synthetic form of THC,” while brandishing the test results as correlated with actual Marijuana use. Using another “synthetic form of THC,” doesn’t seem to me anymore useful or relevant than in the past…………

Comments are closed.