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Depression and the Endocannabinoid System

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have published a study that shows “chronic stress reduced the production of endocannabinoids, leading to depression-like behavior.” This means a lack of natural cannabinoids in the body, called endocannabinoids, caused by stress can lead to depression, which gives cannabis a new potential medical use for major depressive disorders.

Cannabinoids from marijuana may someday become part of a new type of treatment for depression—one with less harmful side effects and interactions than the current medical standards. According to Dr. Samir Haj-Dahmane, a senior research scientist at the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addiction, “Using compounds derived from cannabis—marijuana—to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.”

The research has only so far been conducted on rats, but it is fair to say the study’s findings could apply to humans. Mice share about 97.5 percent of their DNA with us, so this research may remain valid in human clinical trials. Researchers admit there is still “a long way to go before we know whether this can be effective in humans,” but the fact that many people use marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder leads them to believe these findings will hold true in the human brain.

Scientific research and drug approval are both painstakingly slow, but the future for cannabis in the treatment of depression definitely looks promising.

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