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Cannabis improves Major Depressive Disorder symptoms, study finds

Treatment with medical cannabis is associated with reduced levels of depression in patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder, according to a study published in the journal Pharmacopsychiatry.

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The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen and medical cannabis provider Algea Care in Germany assessed medical cannabis use in a cohort of 59 outpatients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also referred to as clinical depression, is a mental health condition that causes a persistently low or depressed mood and a loss of interest in activities that once brought joy. Similar to the UK, medical cannabis can be prescribed to MDD patients in Germany when traditional medical treatments have failed to produce results.

For the study, all participants had tried previous treatment with antidepressant medication and were observed using cannabis over 18 weeks.

Data was collected at the start of the study and during monthly consultations, where the severity of depression was measured on a 0-10 point rating scale and side effects were assessed by a checklist.

“Mean severity of depression decreased from 6.9 points at [the start] to 3.8 points at week 18,” the study reported. One-third of patients complained of side effects, but none that were considered severe.

“Medical cannabis was well tolerated and dropout rate was comparable to those in clinical trials of antidepressant medication”  the study concluded. “Patients reported a clinically significant reduction of depression severity.”

Reported side effects included dry eyes, dry mouth and an increased appetite. Two patients reported trouble concentrating, fatigue or disorientation, while One patient reported nausea, headaches, changes in taste, a scratchy throat, lethargy and restlessness.

“These results are extremely promising and encouraging, as they expand the evidence for the continued use of medical cannabis in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses in Germany,” said Dr Julian Wichmann, founder and CEO of Algea Care and Co-Founder of Bloomwell Group, Algea Care’s parent company.

“In addition, the study lays the foundation for future research projects on the effects of cannabis therapy in the treatment of mental health conditions and illnesses.”

Past studies have also shown promising evidence that cannabis can help with the symptoms of depression. A 2023 study published in Neurotherapeutics involved 129 participants from the UK Medical Cannabis Registry patient database who were diagnosed with depression.

The results showed that medicinal cannabis was associated with improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as health-related quality of life, and sleep quality after 1, 3, and 6 months of treatment.

A 2021 observational study of 368 participants who were already using cannabis and 170 additional participants who did not use cannabis in a control group found that those already taking cannabis reported lower levels of depression When a small number of participants from the control group took up cannabis in a follow-up, researchers found that reported instances of anxiety dropped.


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