Health Magazine

Marijuana and Hallucinogens as an Effective Treatment for Depression

By Tomretterbush @thomretterbush

Marijuana and Hallucinogens as an Effective Treatment for DepressionDepression is a serious mental illness that negatively affects how you feel, think and act.
Depression has a variety of symptoms, but the most common are a deep feeling of sadness or a marked loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Bipolar disorder is also a form of depression, once commonly known as manic depression, it is a brain disorder that causes shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function.
Although there are many other forms and symptoms of depression, this article is not about the disease itself per say, but about treating depression with marijuana and hallucinogens. If you aren't sure about the symptoms of depression, or if you have depression, I strongly recomend you research depression and its symptoms before researching its treatment.
Marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs are attracting renewed attention as potential treatments for psychological disorders, particularly in people who have not responded to conventional drugs like Elavil, Prozac, Paxil, Trazodone, Wellbutrin, BuSpar, Klonopin, Valium or the many other antidepressants.
For many people, depression cannot always be controlled for any length of time simply by exercise, changing diet or taking a vacation. It is, however, among the most treatable of mental disorders: between 80% and 90% of people with depression eventually respond well to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from symptoms."
Using Marijuana as Treatment for Depression
Lester Grinspoon, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School stated in his 1997 book Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine: Thirty to forty percent of patients with bipolar disorder are not consistently helped by conventional treatment. For some of them cannabis may be useful in ameliorating the symptoms, reducing side effects of lithium, or both.
George McMahon, an author and medical marijuana patient of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration's Investigational New Drug (IND) Program, stated in his 2003 book Prescription Pot: People who have never struggled with a life threatening or disabling illness often do not comprehend how debilitating the resulting depression can be. Long days spent struggling with sickness can wear patients down, suppress their appetites and slowly destroy their wills to live. This psychological damage can result in physiological effects that may be the difference between living and dying. The elevated mood associated with cannabis definitely affected my health in a positive manner. I was more engaged with life. I took walks and rode my bike, things I never considered doing before in my depressed state, even if I had been physically capable. I ate regular meals and I slept better at night. All of these individual factors contributed to a better overall sense of well-being.
Frank Lucido, MD, a private practice physician, stated in his article "Implementation of the Compassionate Use Act in a Family Medical Practice: Seven Years Clinical Experience," available on his website (accessed June 2, 2006): With appropriate use of medical cannabis, many of these patients have been able to reduce or eliminate the use of opiates and other pain pills, ritalin, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and other psychiatric medicines...
Lester Grinspoon, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School stated in his 1997 book Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine: Thirty to forty percent of patients with bipolar disorder are not consistently helped by conventional treatment. For some of them cannabis may be useful in ameliorating the symptoms, reducing side effects of lithium, or both.
Tod Mikuriya, MD, a psychiatrist and medical coordinator, cowrote in the 1997 book Marijuana Medical Handbook: The power of cannabis to fight depression is perhaps its most important property.
The Journal of Clinical Investigation stated in an Oct. 13, 2005 article "Cannabinoids Promote Embryonic and Adult Hippocampus Neurogenesis and Produce Anxiolytic- and Antidepressant-like Effects" (Article in PDF format) by Xia Zhang et al.: We show that 1 month after chronic HU210 [high-potency cannabinoid] treatment, rats display increased newborn neurons [brain cell growth] in the hippocampal dentate gyrus [a portion of the brain] and significantly reduced measures of anxiety- and depression-like behavior.Thus, cannabinoids appear to be the only illicit drug whose capacity to produce increased hippocampal newborn neurons is positively correlated with its anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects.
The Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, stated in a Jan. 2004 article on a study designed by Prentiss, Power, Balmas, Tzuang and Israelski "to examine the prevalence and patterns of smoked marijuana and perceived benefit" among 252 HIV patients: Overall prevalence of smoked marijuana in the previous month was 23%. Reported benefits included relief of anxiety and/or depression (57%), improved appetite (53%), increased pleasure (33%), and relief of pain (28%).
Jay Cavanaugh, PhD, National Director for the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis, wrote in his 2003 article "Cannabis and Depression," published on the American Alliance For Medical Cannabis website: Numerous patients report significant improvement and stabilization with their bipolar disorder when they utilize adjunctive therapy with medical cannabis. While some mental health professionals worry about the impact of cannabis on aggravating manic states, most bipolar patients trying cannabis find they 'cycle' less often and find significant improvement in overall mood. Bipolar disorders vary tremendously in the time spent in the depressive versus manic states. Those who experience extended depressive episodes are more likely to be helped with cannabis. Patients who use cannabis to 'relax' may be treating the anxiousness sometimes associated with depression. Cannabis aids the insomnia sometimes present in depression and can improve appetite. Better pain control with cannabis can reduce chronic pain related depression. While cannabis cannot yet be considered a primary treatment of major depression it may improve mood when used under physicians supervision and in combination with therapy and/or SSRI’s.
Bill Zimmerman, PhD, former President of the Americans For Medical Rights, stated in his 1998 book Is Marijuana the Right Medicine For You?: Some patients have found the mood altering effects of marijuana to be helpful for treating mood disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar (manic-depressive) illness. Using marijuana to treat mood disorders was described in medical writings in the 19th and early 20th centuries... However, using marijuana to treat mood disorders can be very tricky... If you intend to use marijuana for this purpose, it is very important that you thoroughly discuss it with your doctor. Patients who respond well report that marijuana not only diminishes their undesirable moods, it also motivates them to productivity. For some of these patients, depression was a by-product of a debilitating disease or illness for which marijuana provided a welcome remedy. For others, the marijuana seems to have acted directly on the depression. The mental component of the pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) often causes psychological problems and is now technically classified as an atypical (not typical) depression. Many women report benefit from using marijuana to improve the symptoms of PMS.
It has been argued that chronic marijuana use can lead to loss of ambition, motivation, even diminished sex drive, however, the chronic, misuse of most anything is usually bad. No matter if we are talking about drugs, alcohol, TV, the Internet, porn, gambling, food or even exercise, to much of these is bad for you. Too much of anything is not good!

Before trying out marijuana as a treatment for depression, I strongly suggest you make sure you are not prone to addiction. Yes, addiction is a hereditary disease some people are more susceptible to than others. So check your family history to see if any of your immediate family is addicted to anything, particularly your mother, father or grandparents. Also consider if you have problems with overeating, habits or compulsions. Ask yourself realistically; am I easily hooked on something I like, such as TV shows, video games, etc.? Do you have a driving sweet tooth? Do you smoke?All of the above are clues as to your likelihood of having problems with addiction further down the road. But please be aware, this is not a fool-proof method either. You need to be very careful when trying anything with addictive properties!

Using Hallucinogens as Treatment for Depression 
Studies revealed long-term benefits of taking hallucinogens for patients suffering from depression, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Two studies published this week, in Science and Nature, confirm that certain hallucinogenic drugs stimulate healthy brain activity, even promoting the growth of neurons.
In a recent Depression and Anxiety Health Alert,Johns Hopkins just published an interesting summary of the research available on treating mood disorders with hallucinogens, whereby the author chronicles the history of hallucinogens and how they affect the central nervous system to release the right kind of neurotransmitters.
Hallucinogens (also called psychedelics) were a promising area of research in the 1960s and early 1970s, when they were being developed as possible treatments for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. These drugs were banned in the ’70s and ’80s, however, after their recreational use became a widespread problem. 
In 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) again began allowing researchers to study the effects of drugs like MDMA (also known as the street drug “Ecstasy”), psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), and ketamine (“Special K”). These drugs are thought to change the way the brain normally processes information and may provide people with mood disorders a new way of looking at the world and their problems.
Personally, I believe that this is something many people could benefit from, not just those suffering from depression and anxiety, but people with a "messed-up" way of looking at life in general. It could help antisocial, materialistic, workaholic and overachieving people who have a hard time finding balance, fulfillment or happiness. It would even be worth exploring their effectiveness with problems of overeating, obesity, devious sexual behavior and many other issues.
Lets take a look at some of the other drugs that are being tested and tried (again) 
MDMA. This illegal, hallucinogenic drug is generating interest to treat a variety of psychiatric conditions — most notably posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which a person experiences chronic psychological stress after a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, war, or sexual assault. MDMA stimulates the central nervous system, causing the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can have a powerful effect on thoughts and emotions. MDMA also increases brain levels of oxytocin, which arouses feelings of trust and confidence that can be particularly helpful during psychotherapy. The idea is that a dose of the drug, taken before a talk therapy session, may help individuals with PTSD reduce their fear and anxiety long enough to discuss and process the events that traumatized them. 
Psilocybin. Similar to LSD, this illegal, hallucinogenic drug binds to serotonin receptors on neurons and mimics the effects of serotonin. In a study conducted at the John Hopkins Hospital on 36 people with no serious physical or emotional problems, results showed that psilocybin could induce what the experimental subjects described as a profound spiritual experience with lasting positive effects for most of them. None had had any previous experience with hallucinogens, and none were even sure what drug was being administered. Because reactions to hallucinogens can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions. They have established standard protocols so that the drugs’ effects can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed the drugs’ effects by scanning the brains of people under the influence of hallucinogens. While some subjects had to be consoled through periods of anxiety, these were generally short-lived, and none of the people reported any serious negative effects. In a survey conducted two months later, the people who received psilocybin reported significantly more improvements in their general feelings and behavior than did the members of the control group.
Ketamine. This hallucinogenic drug is an FDA-approved general anesthetic which is also taken recreationally because of its hallucinogenic and euphoric effects. Ketamine binds to receptors in the brain and blocks the neurotransmitter glutamate that normally activates neurons producing a calming effect. Molecular psychiatrist Nanxin Li and colleagues dosed rats with modest amounts of ketamine, and observed that the drug boosted signaling between neurons in the brain even led to healthy growth of synapses. (Chronic depression can be linked to inhibited synaptic growth.) They concluded that ketamine might be useful in treating depression because it increases brain activity instantly, meaning there is no need to wait weeks or months for the drug to take effect.
The Problem
The problem is that these drugs are not (yet) accepted treatments for mental disorders, and should not be tried on your own (although I did) without the supervision of a qualified professional or outside of a clinical trial (get a list of clinical trials at,
As a recovering drug addict myself, I no longer go near dope, however each person must find a recovery program that works for them. If recovery or relief from depression includes marijuana, or even the more drastic measure of hallucinogens, I believe the person suffering should carefully weigh their options, taking into consideration the medical and legal implications of including these drugs in their lives.  
It is my opinion that marijuana or most any drug is not harmful if used in moderation.  Those wanting to try marijuana or hallucinogens for the treatment of depression should first carefully consider if they have an addictive personality. This can be done by researching family history (addiction can be hereditary) and by analysing the way you react to other addictive substances or activities.
People should do what works best for them. Unfortunately, our world's governments won't let people do what they believe is best for them. Unfortunately our governments think they know us better than we know ourselves. Personally, I believe that the US government and governments everywhere should butt out of people's lives, and only intervene when people are endangering people other than themselves or society as a whole, but that's another issue entirely.
Written By: Tom Retterbush

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