For many decades, a common myth prevailed: cannabis is linked to mental health problems such as depression. Modern science has proven this to be true, but not in the way that many people expect. In fact, far from being a cause of laziness and apathy that many anti-drug campaigns would have you believe, medical marijuana is actually effective at treating mood disorders and regulating emotional behaviour.

All therapeutic drug treatments for mental health disorders target very specific neurotransmitters in the brain. By clinging to certain receptors, neurotransmitters regulate certain chemicals in the brain and ensure that troubling symptoms are alleviated. But cannabis is unique to all other treatments.

Why Cannabis is Different

Unlike antidepressants like SSRIs that boost serotonin levels, and anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines that release the GABA neurotransmitter, cannabis does not simply target one single receptor site and regulate one chemical. It releases molecules that engage directly with the entire body, resulting in positive overall health. Both physical and mental health is maintained with the use of medical cannabis treatment.

Neurologists have found that the endocannabinoid system is capable of regulating neurotransmitter function in the same way that antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication can. Endocannabinoids are essentially natural forms of cannabis found in the body.

When the endocannabinoid system is working optimally, the exact amount of neurotransmitters needed to promote good mental health are released. On the other hand, if something in the endocannabinoid system goes wrong, it will inevitably lead to mental health problems.

How Different Compounds Impact Mood

Mood regulation cannot be done simply by taking medical marijuana at any dose. Your doctor should work with you to figure out which compound, THC or CBD, is best for you. Recent animal studies show that THC is only effective at treating depression and anxiety in fairly low doses, and if you increase the dose, symptoms actually get worse. The psychoactive agent in the THC compound is the reason why you may have heard someone say that they have become paranoid or anxious after using marijuana.

However, in low doses, there is no reason to believe that THC will cause anxiety symptoms to worsen. THC engages directly with a certain cannabinoid receptor in the brain that regulates fear responses, so unnecessary levels of anxiety will be brought down. Since CBD does not have psychoactive properties, it is unlikely to affect mood.