Depression diagnosis by American physicians doubled in the 1990s, from 11 million to more than 20.4 million cases, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association .[1] In 2000, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States with more than 28,000 deaths resulting. [2] Antidepressants such as Prozac now account for 45% of all prescribed psychoactive drugs. More than 130 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressant drugs in 1998. Yet, as in the case of Prozac, the benefits reported by patients are only marginally better than the result reported by patients given placebo drugs, according to studies observed by the FDA.[3] Psychiatrist Mikuriya cites dozens of historical and contemporary cases of the successful treatment of clinical depression with cannabis.[4] The antidepressant effects of marijuana have been confirmed in many human research studies.[5] Medically classified as a euphoriant, cannabis generally promotes nondepressive thoughts and feelings for most users.[6] Some people may naturally gravitate toward the use of marijuana for the relief of personal depression.[7] While chronic depression may lead to suicide, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other destructive behaviors, there are no similar health risks associated with the mild euphoria or marijuana intoxication.

"Cannabinoid receptors in the CNS have been implicated in the control of appetite, cognition, mood and drug dependence. Recent findings support the hypothesis that cannabinoid CB1 receptor blockade might be associated with antidepressant and anti-stress effects. A novel potential antidepressant drug class based on this mechanism is supported by the neuroanatomical localization of CB1 receptors and signal transduction pathways that are involved in emotional responses, together with the antidepressant-like neurochemical and behavioral effects induced by CB1 receptor antagonists. Selective CB1 receptor antagonists are in development for the treatment of obesity and tobacco smoking, and could be tested for antidepressant efficacy because recent results of clinical studies suggest that they would also treat comorbid symptoms of depression such as cognitive deficiencies, weight gain, impulsivity and dependence disorders. Thus, CB1 receptor antagonism might constitute an integrated pharmacotherapeutic approach that impacts the affective, cognitive, appetitive and motivational neuronal networks involved in mood disorders."[8]

A large survey of marijuana users indicated they have a less derpessed mood than non-users:

"Over 4400 adult internet users completed The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale and measures of marijuana use. We employed an internet survey in an effort to recruit the most depressed and marijuana-involved participants, including those who might prove unwilling to travel to the laboratory or discuss drug use on the phone or in person. We compared those who consumed marijuana daily, once a week or less, or never in their lives. Despite comparable ranges of scores on all depression subscales, those who used once per week or less had less depressed mood, more positive affect, and fewer somatic complaints than non-users. Daily users reported less depressed mood and more positive affect than non-users. The three groups did not differ on interpersonal symptoms. Separate analyses for medical vs. recreational users demonstrated that medical users reported more depressed mood and more somatic complaints than recreational users, suggesting that medical conditions clearly contribute to depression scores and should be considered in studies of marijuana and depression. These data suggest that adults apparently do not increase their risk for depression by using marijuana.”[9]

Related sections: Antimotivational Syndrome, Dependence, Psychoactivity, Stress Reduction, Tolerance.

[1] “Big increase in rate of prescription drugs.” Associated Press, February 18, 1998

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide in the United States, Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/suifacts.htm

[3] “America’s love affair with anti-depressant drugs.” The Boston Globe, October 17, 1999

[4] Mikuriya, Marijuana Medical Handbook. Source: Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, http://www.druglibrary.org

[5] Geiringer, “An overview of the human research studies on medical use of marijuana.” 1994, Source: CANORML, http://www.norml.org/canorml

[6] Mikuriya, op. cit.

[7] Hollister, “Health aspects of marijuana.” Pharmacological Review, Vol. 38, No. 1, 1986

[8] " A therapeutic role for cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonists in major depressive disorders", Witkin J.M., Tzavara E.T., Davis R.J., Li X., Nomikos G.G., Psychiatric Drug Discovery, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, November 2005, Lilly Research Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN 46285-0510, USA. jwitkin@lilly.com

[9] “Decreased depression in marijuana users”, Thomas F. Densonaa, and Mitchell Earleywineb, Addictive Behaviors, June 2005, University of Southern California, Seeley G. Mudd Building, Room 501, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-1061, United States, University at Albany, State University of New York, United States,