Depression is the leading cause of disability across the globe according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with 350 million people around the world currently suffering from the disorder. But game-changing studies are revealing that cannabis, nature’s most potent medicinal plant, could also be the answer to what is the defining health crisis of our time.
“Depression has been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, going back to first grade.” Says Maggie Volpo, mother, author and dedicated medical marijuana activist who overcame depression with cannabis after years of finding no real relief from therapy or pharmaceuticals.
“I was miserable” she explains, describing her experience with anti-depressants, “I got more moody on some, had even more issues with sleep, and universally found myself unable to create.”
“The three I tried were enough to turn me off to all of their chemical cousins.”
Pharmaceutical antidepressants are in fact linked to a long list of troubling side effects, everything from minor irritations like insomnia to serious complications like birth defects. Even worse, a Florida State University Study found that the serotonin based chemical imbalance theory itself, which has been widely promoted by pharmaceutical companies, is completely made up and known to be incorrect.
While pharmaceutical anti-depressants can make depressed people feel better, coffee can make tired people feel more awake, but that does not mean that they were suffering from a caffeine deficiency. This is the same bad logic pharmaceutical companies have been using to create a multi-billion dollar industry based on treating symptoms instead of root causes.
So what’s the root cause of depression then?
“A substantial number of people who struggle with depression may not actually have chemical imbalances.” Says Volpo, “In their cases (as in mine), their depression is caused by trauma, abuse, lack of adequate social support, and/or lack of social mobility. We live in a culture that simultaneously glorifies the individual and disregards individuality.”
“Daily stressors pile up, creating insurmountable obstacles that make life feel miserable and draining.”
The idea that depression is caused by chronic long-term stress is indeed backed up by science. A 2015 study found that even things like student loans, which are now a “normal” part of American life, are directly linked to a rise in depression. This shows conclusively that depression is caused by much more than just chemistry and is nurtured by our actual lifestyle and societal structure instead.
“We are connected instantly to an ongoing feed of all the terrible news in the world: climate change, mass shootings, acts of terrorism and hate, and terrible accidents to name a few.” Explains Volpo, “With so much pressure and such feelings of impotence in the face of the issues that face us as individuals and a species, it’s not surprising that so many people are internalizing that pain and stress, leading to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a host of secondary issues that come with them.”
If depression is really caused by stress, what then is the remedy?
Enter cannabis, the world’s most relaxation inducing plant and an already proven natural pharmacopeia without equal.
“My first night medicating with cannabis, I slept well. I was a little groggy the next morning, but otherwise, I felt fine.” Volpo tells me,” I went back to my mind-numbing job with less physical pain and a sense of hope, something I hadn’t had in years.”
“I knew, I could feel, that cannabis had worked for me in a way that other medications and therapy had not.”
Sound too miraculous to be true?
Besides inducing a mood-enhancing euphoric buzz that makes you feel good right away, cannabis has actually been found to combat depression at the chemical level, specifically targeting a real imbalance in stressed out people -something that Big Pharma can only dream of.
“In the animal models we studied, we saw that chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior,” says RIA senior research scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD in a recent press release from the University of Buffalo’s neuroscience department.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of what is probably the most important discovery in biology in the last century, the endocannibinoid system is a complex network of receptors that bind to cannabinoid compounds in marijuana and has extremely far reaching health implications. In short, it explains why cannabis is such a miraculous medicine with almost limitless therapeutic applications.
“Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.” Haj-Dahmane continues.
For millions of sufferers around the world the fact that a widely available, completely non toxic natural substance like marijuana just might step in where doctors and chemicals have failed is a cause for major celebration.
“I believe that medical marijuana can and should be prescribed for those struggling with depression, especially those with severe depression and suicidal ideation.” Says Maggie Volpo, who also emphasizes the fact that she used cannabis alongside other natural healing modalities to delve deep into the root causes of her trauma to really rid herself of depression.
“Meditation and mindfulness were both major parts of my personal healing process.” She tells me, “I participated in other alternatives, such as sweat lodges, guided, medicated group meditation sessions, and similar things.”
While cannabis offers relief from depression right away, it’s important to consider that healing deep trauma may take some time and deep inner work. Even figuring out your correct dosage and method of ingesting medical marijuana for depression can take some adjustment time.
“My brain had to get used to the plant-based cannabinoids in my system, and I had to mentally get used to functioning when experiencing the effects of cannabis.”
Volpo explains, “As I acclimated, I was able to fine-tune my process and dosage.”
“Although I tried working with therapists, I had little success there.” She continues, “I created, instead, my own therapeutic module, with a heavy focus on meditative questions and self-analysis of my past, behavior, and feelings. Because cannabis silenced a lot of my self-critical internal chatter, I was able to get through quite a bit of backlogged emotion and trauma, on my own, in my own time.”
With cannabis and self-reflexion, Maggie treated her depression, and now devotes her time and energy to medical marijuana activism in many shapes and forms, from sharing her story through articles and radio shows to writing and publishing the “Stinky Steve” educational series of children’s books on marijuana safety.
Her story is a powerful, anecdotal testament to the medicinal power of cannabis and a perhaps even beacon of hope to millions who suffer from depression around the world.
This post was originally published on April 22, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.