Marijuana and Depression: A Depressant or Treatment?

Learn about the link between marijuana and depression. Should you take marijuana for depression or is marijuana a depressant?Medical marijuana for depression?

The subject of marijuana and depression has been of interest to researchers for some time. Some studies suggest marijuana is a depressant, finding more marijuana smokers are diagnosed with depression than nonsmokers.1As marijuana has over 400 active compounds, however, the direct relationship between marijuana and depression is still unclear.

Marijuana, also known as weed, is a preparation of the cannabis plant (read: what is marijuana). All psychoactive compounds found in cannabis, and thus marijuana, are called cannabinoids. Research has also looked to specific cannabinoids for the link between marijuana and depression.

Marijuana and Depression - Is Weed a Depressant?

Marijuana affects many parts of the brain including chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters possibly linking marijuana and depression include:

  • Acetylcholine
  • Glutamate
  • Norepinephrine
  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

More detailed information on brain effects of marijuana.

The answer to "is marijuana a depressant?" may lie with the fact that marijuana decreases these neurotransmitters in the brain.2 It is known that decreasing these chemicals in the brain can lead to depression.

Although there appears to be a correlation between marijuana and depression, no studies have yet shown marijuana causes depression. However, high doses of marijuana have been linked to worsening depression.3

Marijuana and Depression -Medical Marijuana for Depression Treatment

A study in 2007 looked at the effect of a synthetic cannabinoid on depression. The study used a synthetic version of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, and tested it on rats. This synthetic THC can be viewed as medical marijuana for depression.

When the drug was given to the rats in high doses, it worsened depressive symptoms but at low doses, it had antidepressant effects. The link between marijuana and depression then appears to be dose-dependent.

Because low-dose marijuana appeared to improve depression, the researchers are hoping to develop a new drug similar to the idea of medical marijuana for depression.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). Marijuana and Depression: A Depressant or Treatment?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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