13th May 2021
By Emily Ledger
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Every year, the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Week – an event that has been occurring annually for 21 years. To honour the importance of mental health awareness, we have decided to spend each day from the 10th of May to the 16th of May, looking at the evidence of how cannabis and CBD may help or hinder our mental health. 

For the fourth article in our series for Mental Health Awareness Week, we will be taking a look at the evidence to explain how CBD and cannabis can affect depression – one of the most common mental health struggles in the UK.

How Depression Affects People in the UK

According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression is the predominant mental health problem worldwide, affecting 19.7% of the UK population in 2014.

Depression is characterised by a low mood that lasts for a long time, however, symptoms and causes can vary significantly from person to person. People can be diagnosed with mild, moderate, and severe forms of depression, with treatment options varying for each diagnosis. It is also common to “move between mild, moderate, and severe depression during one episode of depression or across different episodes”.

Common treatment options for depression include talking therapies, self-help programmes, physical activity programmes, and medications such as anti-depressants. However, in recent years, the potential implications of cannabis and CBD use for depression have become a wider area of research.

How Could CBD and Cannabis Affect Depression?

Despite a significant uptake in cannabis research in recent decades, there remain conflicting arguments for how cannabis-based products may affect depression and its associated symptoms.

Some studies have demonstrated that frequent and regular cannabis use may contribute to or even cause feelings of depression. However, as research continues to develop, there is a growing body of literature suggesting the potential benefit of the cannabis compound, CBD, in reducing feelings of depression and anxiety.

Although the exact mechanisms through which CBD may affect depression are still debated, research suggests that CBD use can prompt an uptake in the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide – which takes its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Ananda’ meaning ‘bliss’ – is a chemical produced naturally in our bodies that is believed to modulate mood, appetite, and pain signalling.

Separate research has implied that exposure to CBD may also affect the way in which our bodies use serotonin, another natural chemical that plays an important role in the regulation of mood. However, one of the most significant ways that CBD could impact feelings of depression, may be its anti-anxiety potential.

Anxiety and depression are often experienced together and often share similar symptoms, such as feeling restless, being agitated, and struggling to sleep and eat.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

May 10th-16th represents Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK – an event dedicated to raising awareness and presenting “an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health.”

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week – ‘Nature’ – reflects on the importance of our connection to nature and how this can play an important role in our mental health. For more information, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.

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