Using Medical Marijuana for Depression
Many people use marijuana to alleviate symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder, but is it available for medical use in states where laws protect the therapeutic consumption of cannabis? In most states, medical marijuana laws are written to address symptoms rather than specific illnesses. Even among those that do recognize specific illnesses, depression isn’t typically recognized as a legally valid justification for medical cannabis use. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use medical marijuana to treat depression. Learn more about this complex issue so you can make a well-informed decision about your healthcare.
Can You Get a Medical Marijuana License for Depression?
Like most mental illnesses, clinical depression (patients with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder or similar mental health issue) is complex, and our understanding of this disease really isn’t very advanced. While a biologically inevitable chemical imbalance in the brain may be the underlying cause of many cases of depression, there are some instances in which depression is more a result of a situation. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression resulting from something bad happening in one’s life, like divorce or being stuck in a demoralizing job, are a few examples of other underlying causes of this disease
Doctors usually don’t diagnose depression by actually assessing the chemicals in your brain. Instead, it’s your behavior that makes up the primary clinical criteria. Depression is most commonly associated with symptoms such as losing interest in things they previously enjoyed, suffering from abnormal sleep patterns, eating much more or less than they used to, feeling dangerously hopeless about their lives and social isolation.
This makes it hard to align depression with the conditions for which medical marijuana use is legal in most states to treat chronic pain and other medical conditions like multiple sclerosis. However, if you do experience some of the symptoms that medical marijuana is licensed to treat, all you’ll have to do is make your case in a clear, honest, and convincing way. It’s best to just focus on the symptoms for which medical cannabis is legally allowed in your jurisdiction than to frame your situation as needing marijuana to treat depression.
For example, if depression has caused you to completely lose your appetite and you’re underweight, you could obtain a medical marijuana license to address this issue—not the depression, but the lack of appetite and weight loss. If you’re experiencing physical pain as a result of depression, that could also count. Note, though, that physical pain is a very rare symptom of depression and it’s hard to prove that the depression is what’s causing the pain. That’s part of the reason why focusing on the symptoms rather than speculating as to the underlying cause is your best approach for medical marijuana.
When Depressed People Should Avoid or Limit Marijuana Usage
The old wisdom of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” may apply for some people with depression who want to consume marijuana to treat their illness. Aside from the fact that you may be very unlikely to obtain a license for to treat depression, marijuana is generally not recommended as a treatment method for depression because it might actually hurt more than it helps.
This isn’t necessarily because of chemical concerns the way it is with other mental illnesses or even because of chemical dependency concerns the way it is with drugs like alcohol and opiods. There are a few reasons why it may be a good idea for clinically depressed people to limit or avoid marijuana use.
One of these reasons is simple: it could interact badly with psychiatric drugs. But there are more complex reasons. Many people like consuming marijuana because it alters their reality. When you’re depressed, reality isn’t that great. It can be painful or scary just to exist. Having something that alleviates that discomfort and pain is valuable, but not if it causes you to ignore the underlying issues that cause your depression in the first place. People experiencing depression as a result of a bad financial situation, for example, may not feel that it’s necessary to actually address that underlying cause if they can make their symptoms go away. But even without the symptoms, being in dire financial straits is a bad situation you should work to fix.
If marijuana becomes the only thing in your life that helps you feel worthwhile and satisfied, it could end up becoming a crutch. That’s a lot of “could,” but it’s still worth thinking about. Using this medication in conjunction with other treatment methods, including therapy or exercise, is likely the best approach.
Seeking Help for Depression
Most doctors should agree that medical cannabis generally should not be the only treatment one seeks for depression. Even if it alleviates your symptoms and helps you feel more normal, that can create a sense of dependency that, although not chemical in nature, still leads to unhealthy drug use.
The idea of therapy can seem daunting and uninviting but the fact is, talking your issues out with a professional who has an unbiased view of your situation can have many rewards. Such as, looking at your life from a different point of view and empowering you with the tools needed for positive change. There are many qualified licensed professionals that can help you navigate this troubled time. You don’t necessarily have to like and understand your medical doctor to get a good diagnosis of the flu, but it's important to have that connection with your therapist so you can build trust which is the foundation for change.
If you think you’re suffering from depression, seek profession help. They may suggest medical marijuana to counteract symptoms like weight loss due to appetite changes or insomnia but, in most cases, you aren’t going to be able to get a medical marijuana license for depression alone. It's wise to be open to other ways of treating mild and severe cases of depression. It’s not just in your head—your brain is an organ, a vital part of your body. If it’s working against you rather than for you, it means you have a legitimate illness that needs medical attention.