Cannabinoids for Treating Depression & Anxiety

cannabinoids for depression and anxiety

Our modern world is an exciting one, but for many of us this also comes at a price.  Having to juggle careers, relationships, family life along with all the other daily stressors, we can easily be left feeling overwhelmed, down and anxious.

According to the Minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, mental disorders such as depression and anxiety accounting for about 24% diseases diagnosed in the Cayman Islands, with depression being by far the most prevalent.

Although depression and anxiety each have their own causes and are two different disorders, one study found that half of people with either anxiety or depression have the other condition.  Moreover, they often share treatments as their symptoms often overlap and are very similar.

Physical symptoms of both include:

  • decreased energy, chronic fatigue, or feeling sluggish frequently
  • difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or recalling
  • pain, aches, cramps, or gastrointestinal problems without any clear cause
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • sleep difficulties, including problems falling asleep and restless, unsatisfying sleep
  • racing heart and/or grinding teeth

Emotional symptoms of both include:

  • loss of interest or no longer finding pleasure in activities or hobbies
  • persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • feeling hopeless or pessimistic
  • anger, irritability, restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
  • feeling guilty or experiencing feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • thoughts of death or suicide and/or suicide attempts
  • difficulty controlling worry or fear, dread and/or panic

Depression and anxiety can affect anyone at any time – regardless of age, gender or lifestyle, and can lasts for a few weeks at a time to being something that can become a life long struggle. 

What Causes Depression & Anxiety

Medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what the underlying causes of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are, but the most accepted theory is that there is an interplay between three different factors:

  1. Neurochemical imbalances in the limbic system with the most important of these influencing mental health being serotonin which plays a vital role in the regulation of mood and emotions.
  1. An imbalance in anandamide (involved with elevating mood) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG, responsible in memory activation), the two endocannabinoids which also play a vital role in helping the brain regulate mood and emotion. Research has shown that people suffering depression and anxiety, have lower levels of anandamide in their system while having higher levels of 2-AG.
  1. An endocannabinoid system (ECS) imbalance with not enough cannabinoid receptors being present in the body.  When there is a decrease in serotonin and anandamide coupled with the raised levels of 2-AG, the CB1 receptors in the brain become over stimulated causing the brain to adapt by reducing the number of these receptors in the brain, making it difficult for the brain to maintain a sense of emotional balance.

The Role of Cannabinoids in Depression & Anxiety

Scientists are increasingly studying the potential and efficacy of cannabis and different cannabinoids in the treatment of depression and anxiety.  The hypothesis is that, because of the distinctive role the endocannabinoid system plays in dampening the negative affects associated with depression, anxiety and stress, introducing phytocannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) can support this process.

Many studies have shown that both antagonists and agonists of the CB1 receptor such as THC and CBD can produce anti-depressant and anxiolytic effects while also acting as anandamide hydrolysis inhibitors which can lead to an increase in anandamide levels in the brain.  And in the case of CBD specifically, when it is introduced into the body, increases or decreases of regional cerebral blood flow in areas of the brain predicted to be involved in various anxiety states are observed.

Final Thoughts

What this means in a nutshell is that phytocannabinoids such as THC and CBD show potential as effective treatment options for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety due to their ability to regulate endocannabinoid levels, while also reactivating CB1 receptors.  In addition, it also increases blood flow to the limbic system, potentially rebalancing this system in addition to the ECS, and allowing for sufficient levels of serotonin release.

However, if you are considering using cannabinoid based medicines for the treatment of depression and anxiety, it is important to know that certain cannabinoids such as THC are biphasic in their action, with too much actually exacerbating symptoms.  Similarly, cannabinoids can interact with certain medications or physical conditions and works best as part of an integrative and supervised medical treatment protocol.  That is why it is vital to always speak to a physician or medical cannabis specialist first.


To find out if cannabis medicine is a good option for you, or to book a consultation with one of Farside’s registered medical specialists, please go to our booking page here.

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