UNM Study: Cannabis offers fast relief for depression and mental health disorders


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Among the many diseases, ailments and medical conditions that medical cannabis may hold promise in treating, mental health disorders have long-been at the forefront of conversations. Debates regarding the plant’s efficacy at treating mental health problems are ongoing. However, an ever growing body of research points to the sheer potential that the green plant may have as a treatment option.

One of the most recent discoveries on this subject emerges from the University Of New Mexico. Based on a research study that was just published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, cannabis flower could be an effective choice at providing fast symptomatic relief in depressed people.

Titled “The Effectiveness of Cannabis Flower for Immediate Relief from Symptoms of Depression,” the study was fronted by the founders of University of New Mexico’s Marijuana Research Fund a Psychology Associate Professor at UNM named Jacob Vigil, P and an Economics Assistant Professor at the university named Sarah See Stith.

The researchers used the Releaf App to gather data from anonymous individuals who reported using cannabis to treat depression and other mental health issues. 

“The findings suggest that, at least in the short term, the vast majority of patients that use cannabis experience antidepressant effects, although the magnitude of the effect and extent of side effect experiences vary with chemotypic properties of the plant,” the paper reads.

Study on cannabis for depression: What did the research entail?

In total, 1,819 people participated in this study on cannabis for depression. Among those who partook anonymously, 5,876 reports of cannabis use were submitted via the Releaf App. After assessing their findings, the researchers noticed that patients experienced a four-point improvement in symptoms; on a scale of zero to 10. All of those patients were believed to have consumed cannabis in its whole, dried, natural form.

Based on the Releaf App data, the plant could ease depressive episodes of depression — a condition that impacts the lives of approximately one in five U.S. adults. Scientists and doctors associate depression with the onset of additional ailments, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse disorders.

Although cannabis is gradually becoming a preferred treatment option among patients with depression not to mention the aforementioned ailments/conditions conventional pharmaceuticals are more commonly prescribed. However, the unfortunate fact is that addictive and often harmful prescriptions, such as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, tricyclics antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, can take months to produce any positive results.

The study authors touched upon this area; noting that the negative side effects associated with prescribed depression medications include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Anorgasmia
  • Demotivation
  • Sedation
  • Suicidal ideation.

“One of the more interesting findings from this study is that cannabis flower with relatively high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is particularly associated with immediate reductions in the intensity of depressive feelings,” said Jacob Miguel Vigil. “The differences in time-to-effect and relative side effect prevalence across products and users could arise from other antidepressant and synergistic compounds in the plant beyond THC or cannabidiol (CBD), including minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.”

Study on cannabis for depression: Plant has antidepressant effects, say investigators 

Natural cannabis flower was the preferred option for depression symptoms, according to the study subjects. Significant antidepressant effects were experienced among those who consumed cannabis in this form. The power of the plant’s anti-depressant effects were dependent on each plant’s particular properties, say the researchers.

A key takeaway from this study on cannabis for mental health is that high-THC strains appeared to cause negative side effects. For example, many study subjects reported feeling lazy and unmotivated after consuming the psychoactive cannabinoid. On the other hand, the mind-altering chemical which is naturally produced by the cannabis plant was also believed to spark feelings of happiness, optimism and relaxation.

“Over the past few years it is becoming clear that individuals using Releaf App are tracking their mental health symptoms in more detail to better understand how cannabis may help provide them with relief,” said Keenan Keeling, CEO of MoreBetter the company behind Releaf App. 

“Historically, we’ve seen cannabis efficacy studies related to chronic physical ailments such as pain, cancer, and epilepsy. It is becoming increasingly important and relevant to better understand how cannabis affects mental health disorders like depression.”