February 11, 2016

New Human Research on CBD, Endocannabinoids and Depression

ICRS logo

8/8/2011 – The International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) meeting  in Chicago last month showcased new data on cannabinoids gathered from human subjects. Most bio-medical science happens on rats or in petri dishes, so any studies on people are always notable. The ICRS is a unique and concentrated pool of cannabinoid scientists presenting the latest breakthroughs at our annual meetings.

The second day of the 2011 ICRS meeting had a Psychiatric Session that included these interesting topics:

Danieal Hauer, Ludwig-Maimilians University (Germany) discussed results from human subject who had undergone cardiac surgery.  23.5% percent of patients were thought to have diagnosable symptoms of depression after 6 months post-surgery.  This population of depressed patients had lower blood levels of Anandamide, an endocannabinoid. The doctors suggest that patients with lower endocannabinoid levels during the peri-opertaive stage are at a higher risk of developing depression.

Mateus Bergamaschi, University Sao Paulo Brazil, showed results from a human study on the effects of pure CBD to treat people with social phobia.  Participants were all healthy college undergraduates. They divided into different groups and were given 2 minutes to prepare a 4 minute oral presentation on “the public transportation system of your city.” The participants who received an oral of CBD had lower anxiety scores than the placebo group. The researchers conclude that this is another study which demonstrates the anti-anxiety effects of CBD and additional double blind, placebo controlled studies are needed.

Andrea Dlugos (University of Muenster, University of Chicago) presented the first data on human subjects which indicates that stress can increase the levels of many endocannabinoids. Acute stress increases N-Acylethanolamines, i.e., AEA, in healthy humans. Basla serum levels of AG and AEA were found to be lower in depressed women. Functional FAAH gene variants influence response to acute stress. eCB increases are correlated to circulating levels of stress indicators.  Stress increases AEA, PEA, OEA but not 2AG, 2OG. Psychosocial specific stress increases some levels. Interestingly, Caucasians show an increase in certain cannabinoids that was not seen in African Americans and Asians.  The authors note that cortisol and PEA share a common mechanism that warrants further study.

These three sets of research could have beneficial applications if they are developed. Testing the endocannabinoid levels to help identify those at risk for depression after heart surgery would be a simple way of averting this negative outcome. It is also exciting to see pure CBD used in a psychological experiment with humans demonstrating a promising treatment from an easily acquired extract.

The ICRS meeting was jam packed with amazing new science. We’ll have more from the presentations in future posts.

Read more Science at Freedomisgreen.com

Jahan Marcu is currently investigating the pharmacology of cannabinoid receptors. He was working at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute when exciting discoveries were made showing enhanced anti-cancer effects with THC and CBD from the Cannabis plant. The findings were published in the Journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. In 2009 he received the Billy Martin Award from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS). Jahan is currently the vice-chair the Medical and Scientific Advisory Board at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). Questions?   Contact    science@freedomisgreen.com

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent any University, business or affiliates. While the information provided in this blog is from published scientific studies it is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.



Depression and Weed – One Girl’s Story

Depression and Weed – How to Get High for Help

I never realized the passing hours of evening showers
A slip noose hanging in my darkest dreams
I’m strangled by your haunted social scene
Just a pawn out-played by a dominating queen
It’s four o’clock in the morning
Dammit listen to me good
I’m sleeping with myself tonight
Saved in time, thank God my music’s still alive

–       Elton John, Someone Saved my Life Tonight

I was ten and living in this same house at the Jersey shore when I heard that song I curled up on my bedroom floor and cried my eyes out for a long time. Too long for a little girl who didn’t even understand the lyrics. I knew then my spirit could become heavy.

Due to my father’s death years before, I became preoccupied with death and the supernatural, thinking ghosts were constantly sneaking around me. Darkness scared me into my teens; I slept with a light on. I was afraid of being left, in any incarnation…abandonment issues. Bleak and voracious thoughts seemed to chase after me. It was the beginnings of depression.

As an adult I tried several anti-depressants over the years. Four different kinds in total, each with their own weird side effects, including a lovely facial twitch.

Sure on some levels I felt better on them, but I didn’t feel like me. Instead I felt like a strange cartoon version of myself, hovering above earth like a float in a parade. When I found out they could affect my sex drive, I parted ways with them. What’s happiness without horniness? Nothing, indeed.

Marijuana entered my life at an early age. In my teens, I used it to numb out and have fun with my friends. It wasn’t until years later that I realized if I didn’t use it as a drug but as a medicine, it could actually help this chronic heaviness I felt.

My self-diagnosis is anxiety-based depression. I can get stuck in “thought loops” that can leave me standing in the middle of a room, unable to take a single step forward for fear that I’ll do the wrong thing. (Crippling indecision is the most under-discussed aspect of depression.)

After a particularly bad break-up about 10 years ago, those loops were growing worse. Just as some people envision a warm beach to relax, I pictured a shiny gun in my mouth. Seriously. That’s what I did to relax. Something had to change. But I didn’t want to go on any more meds.

I still remember the afternoon I used marijuana – not to escape, not to “party” – but to help me during a depressive episode. I lived in San Francisco at the time and shared a little Castro flat with two women. I smoked a little pot out on our deck and then forced myself on a walk.

When I hit the street, everything had a shimmering glow. The sun was crystalline bright, the breeze so light. Everyone was bustling about and I couldn’t help but smile, even though only hours before I could barely move.

Then I ambled about, hit some yard sales (a therapy in its own right), and chatted with some wonderfully wacky little neighbors. My mood lightened with each step. When I came back home, with a bag of random treasures, I let out a deep sigh of relief. The spell had been broken. The loops had stopped. And I actually enjoyed my afternoon!

It seemed as if smoking pot allowed my overactive brain to stop and smell the proverbial roses. From that point forward, I’d use pot in a way that seemed less about escape and more about taking self-care.

I don’t smoke weed every day. It matters to me that I spend time “as is,” with the loops and the dank, heavy thoughts. They deserve their time and my respect. During those times, I allow myself to cry, like that little girl listening to a 70’s song about suicide. I just let it all out and it’s such a profound relief. That was stuck in me and it had to come out afterall.

But when I find myself in a serious downward spiral, I might choose pot to stop the cycle. Why wouldn’t I? It beats anti-depressants that make my face twitch. And needlessly suffering seems stupid.

I smoke and suddenly instead of white-knuckled worrying I notice the majestic beauty of the clouds. Or that cheerful, focused way a dog walks with its owner. Or the rustling of leaves on a gray day…god, how sexy is that?

My occasional “drug” habit has allowed me to live in the moment again and allow myself to feel the magic that’s happening around us all of the time. I’m given a break from depression. And even when I do feel badly, I remember that it’s possible to feel other ways.

But that’s just my story.


You’re a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

Someone Saved my Life Tonight – Elton John


Read more in the Maryjane Category at Freedomisgreen.com

Beth Mann is a popular blogger and writer for Open Salon and Salon. She is also an accomplished actor and director with over 15 years of experience, as well as the president of Hot Buttered Media. She currently resides at the Jersey shore where she can often be seen surfing or singing karaoke at the local dive bar. Contact: maryjane {at } freedomisgreen.com

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