Depression can be a result of a hormonal change, or chemical imbalance, or can be situational—such as loss of spouse, job, pet, or physical/mental function. Because of the hormonal connection, depression is twice as likely to affect women then men. 18 million Americans are affected. It can range from mild to severe, temporary to chronic. It is the leading cause of disability in America costing just under 50 Billion dollars annually in health care and lost job productivity.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Prolonged sadness. Bouts of crying
- Sleeplessness or excessive sleeping
- Loss of appetite or excessive overeating
- Sexual dysfunction
- The loss of pleasure in everyday activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of low self esteem, or self loathing
- Thoughts of suicide
- Lack of energy unrelated to any physical illness
- Chronic pain that doesn’t improve with treatment
- Excessive Anxiety and irritability
- An inability to concentrate
Typically prescription drugs are used when a depression lasts longer than several weeks. The most common drugs used are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors—known more commonly as SSRI’s—are the treatment of choice. Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are the most common SSRI’s. One of the drawbacks is that these medications usually take up to four weeks and can have many side effects. These complications can include anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disorders. Older drugs, such as Elavil, are also still used although the severity of side effects is much higher than the SSRI’s. A new group of drugs have recently been introduced, such as, Serzone, that act on both the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Symptoms from these drugs may include nausea, dry mouth and constipation.
Those patients who have used marijuana have seen a significant mood improvement without the side effects from the regularly prescribed drugs. Even those suffering with bi-polar disease were able to claim improvement when they combined the use of marijuana with therapy sessions. They found that they had fewer episodes of repeating the ‘cycle’ of manic and depression.
Many patients with anxiety disorder who use marijuana to relax, also reap benefits. It aids in insomnia which is one of the biggest complaints of those with depression and increases appetite for those who have lost their interest in food.
Studies have shown an approved level of functionality in patients who have added the use of medical marijuana to their treatment program. Their work attendance has improved, they show an interest in life, start caring for themselves, cognitive skills return along with an ability to concentrate, social interactions resume, and normal sleeping patterns replace sleepless nights.
Patients appreciate the fact that if they are not also on any of the other medications for Depression, that they have virtually no side effects. They can take a few puffs of marijuana before going to bed, have a restful nights sleep and wake up refreshed and not groggy. Other sleep medication leaves people in a ‘morning fog’ that could be dangerous to them. But probably the biggest benefit is that it works within a few minutes, rather than the conventional drugs which take up to 4 weeks. This is significant for someone who is suicidal or non-responsive.