As the cold winter months approach, millions of people across the country find themselves feeling down in the dumps for no particular reason. This condition, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), is a type of depression that emerges during the same season every year...typically as the days begin to shorten and the temperature drops. It tends to strike those with otherwise “normal” mental health during the warmer months.
While people suffering from anxiety may experience a slight uptick in their depressive symptoms come winter, those already diagnosed with major depression (year-round) may not experience any change in their symptoms. Regardless, the hectic nature of the holiday season can send anyone, depressed or not, into a stressful mental tailspin.
Until recently, prescription medications have been doctors’ go-to recommendations for the treatment of mental health conditions. These lab-created meds can indeed be effective, but they don’t come without downsides. Benzos, also known as tranquilizers, are a frequently-prescribed class of medications to treat anxiety. They do so by manipulating channels in the central nervous system, allowing chloride to enter the neurons, thus making them negatively-charged and resistant to excitation. Viola! Decreased anxiety. But benzos also come with a high risk of addiction and abuse, and overdosing can lead to death.
SSRIs, on the other hand, have been classically used to treat depression by blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Common side effects are insomnia, nervousness/agitation, and sexual dysfunction that may or may not improve once the medication is discontinued. And oftentimes, SSRI patients must endure weeks of feeling worse before the medication starts to make them feel better. In fact, while antidepressants may improve the condition, they may also increase the risk of suicide.
We’re not trying to scare anyone here. We simply want more people to know that there exists a much safer, sometimes more effective treatment for mental health conditions:
Cannabis works differently than pharmaceutical medications. Instead of directly triggering specific types of receptors that force the increase of certain chemicals in the brain, the cannabinoids that enter your body when you consume cannabis interact with your endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS triggers all types of chemical reactions, including those that affect mood. These interactions promote homeostasis, or optimal balance, in the mind and body. (For a more in-depth overview, check out this awesome HERB article: Here’s How Cannabis Affects Mental Health).
Consider this sequence of logic: we know that maintaining a healthy endocannabinoid system equals more stable emotions (i.e. less anxiety and depression), and increased overall health in general. We also know that the endocannabinoid system can be fortified with cannabis. Therefore, cannabis can lead to increased mental health.
Most importantly: it’s VERY safe. Cannabis has been responsible for zero (0!) deaths throughout the history of time. Compare this with benzos, which were involved in 31% of deaths (22,767 to be exact) from prescription drug overdoses in 2013. And that was just in the US.
Still on the fence? In 2016, a team of researchers conducted an extensive review of 31 studies on the science behind treating mental health issues with cannabis. Their findings: cannabis CAN benefit people dealing with depression, anxiety, and even PTSD.
Dr. Zach Walsh, one of the authors on the review, stated “[Cannabis] is a substance that has potential use for mental health. We should be looking at it in the same way [as other drugs] and be holding it up to the same standard.”
This is what drives our team at Releaf. As more states turn “green” and more people are given the chance to try cannabis out for themselves, either to treat a specific condition or just improve their well-being, we want to help them succeed. And we believe that mindful cannabis use is the key to success.
When using cannabis, we encourage you to record everything about your experience. This is the best way to truly learn what’s working for you.
We did, and we know you can too.
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