Microdosing cannabis, or consuming small amounts of cannabis at a time, is transforming the way people can harness the plant’s awesome therapeutic attributes. For those patients who are more interested in the health than the high, it is a way to medicate all day long without winding up passed out on a couch or unwittingly thrown into a panic attack. When it comes to medicating depression, microdosing is a game changer.
What is Depression?
One of the most frustrating things for depression patients is the way that their diagnosis has been appropriated into casual dialogue. It isn’t uncommon for someone to express their disappointment over a missed
opportunity, an unhappy ending to a film, or the unavailability of a favorite snack by saying something along the lines of “I’m so depressed.” Usually, this is intended to be comedic. In actuality, it contributes to the stigma of mental illness and the mitigation of the trauma caused by the very real and debilitating condition depression can be.
Depression, clinically known as major depressive disorder, is a real and treatable condition that causes patients to feel apathy and sadness without any obvious cause. Unchecked, depression can cause a chain reaction of negative physical and emotional manifestations and severely limit or eliminate the patient’s ability to work, manage relationships, and take care of him/herself. A medical diagnosis is given when the symptoms persist for at least two weeks and when other medical conditions such as brain tumors, and/or thyroid problems are ruled out.
Difference Between Depression and Sadness
Depression doesn’t always look the same. Many people assume that depression and sadness are the same things. While sadness can certainly be a part of depression, the condition is much more complicated than that. Feeling sadness in response to loss is a healthy part of the grieving process. Depression, on the other hand, does not necessarily follow loss. It can manifest itself when everything in someone’s life is going “right.” Symptoms of depression include apathy toward activities once enjoyed, extreme weight change, feelings of sadness, fatigue, irregular sleep habits, increased fidgeting, slowed speech, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death or suicide. While the symptoms of grieving are very similar to the symptoms of depression, there are key differences. The grief-stricken feel their sadness in waves, while depressed patients are consistently down. The grieving maintains a high self-esteem while depression causes self-hatred.
More Common Than You Think
Depression is an extremely common mental illness, striking about one in 15 adults, or 6.7 percent, a year. There are several risk factors that elevate the likelihood of a diagnosis. Women are more likely to have depression than men. Depression is also genetic and can be passed down through families. Growing up in an adverse home situation also escalates the likelihood of becoming depressed later in life.
Conventional treatments for depression include antidepressant medications. These medications are meant to change the patient’s brain chemistry. Psychiatrists will often recommend that patients take these medications for long periods of time, especially in severe cases. Psychotherapy is another treatment that has been found to effectively help patients manage their depression. When nothing else works, electroconvulsive therapy may be used. This treatment has come a long way since its violent inception in the 1940’s, but it is still a last resort.
Cannabis’ Effect on Depression
The reason cannabis is so medically effective is because of the beneficial way that its chemical compounds including cannabinoids and terpenes interact with the body. Cannabinoids in particular directly stimulate the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in ways that promote homeostasis. The ECS is a neurological system responsible for the facilitation of critical bodily functions including the immune system, sleep, pleasure and reward, and metabolism. Cannabis supports the ECS, and that’s what makes it such a versatile therapy.
One of the major risk-factors of depression is chronic stress. A 2014 study conducted by neuroscientists from the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions found that cannabis may have medical efficacy in treating depression with its origins in this risk factor. The study was conducted on rats with compromised endocannabinoid systems due to the adverse effects of chronic stress. The team provided the endocannabinoid-deficient rats with cannabis and found that it was a viable treatment for the restoration of endocannabinoid levels. The team observed that this treatment effectively mitigated some symptoms of depression.z
Another 2014 study published by CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets found that cannabidiol, CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid housed in the cannabis plant, demonstrated anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects in a variety of animal models. The study reviewed numerous experiments in which animals were put under stress through various tests. The use of CBD was effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety and depression exhibited by these animals.
A 2016 study also found that CBD had anti-depressant effects. The study was conducted on rats who were subjected to forced swimming and open field tests. After observing rats that had been injected with CBD, the study concluded that CBD produces anti-depressant effects likely because of its indirect activation of CB1 and 5-HT1A receptors, molecular pathways that, among other things, affect mood.
Why Microdosing Matters
While cannabis is a powerful therapy for an array of conditions, there are cases where less is more. That can be particularly true when it comes to treating mood disorders like depression. Studies have shown that while THC can alleviate symptoms of depression at a certain point, it can exacerbate them if it exceeds that limit. Strains that are high in THC may induce anxiety or paranoia, and that can compound the effects of depression rather than reduce them. Strains with low THC levels or a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD are the safest bet. And the most effective way to consume those strains is to microdose.
The purpose of microdosing is to intake enough to get medicated, but not enough to cause a euphoric high. Since everyone’s body is different, there is no set dose considered an official microdose. The trick is to start small, increasing the dosage until the desired effect is produced. Edibles make this easy since most are designed to be broken into small sections with clearly labeled dosages. However, smoking, vaping, and other intake methods can all be used to microdose. Just start with a tiny amount, especially when consuming concentrates.
Microdosing is a powerful way to enjoy the medical attributes of cannabis without risking potential adverse reactions or an unwanted high. The intake of large amounts of cannabis can elevate the mood but leave consumers couch locked, or worse, paralyzed by an anxiety attack. For patients with depression, microdosing is worth the try if it means an alternative therapy void of side effects and naturally designed to achieve physical and mental homeostasis.