Cannabidiol has developed a reputation for being a cure-all, a miracle drug of sorts. While CBD has been shown to improve dozens of conditions, the limited research into how CBD affects these conditions leaves our understanding of its interaction with the body a bit blurred. This is especially true for CBD and depression. But researchers in São Paulo State and their Danish colleagues have discovered a breakthrough in CBD’s impact on depression—a breakthrough that drastically decreases the time it takes for those with depression to experience relief from their symptoms.
CBD Shows Quick, Sustained Effects on Depression
Many people suffering from depression are prescribed different types of anti-depressants, most of which can take weeks to improve patients’ symptoms. But just 60% those on anti-depressants experience relief, leading many to discover they have treatment-resistant depression, a form of depression that does not respond to multiple treatments and is present in nearly two-thirds of those with major depressive disorder, or MDD. This has led researchers to search for fast- and long-lasting effects on depression.
The team of researchers found that rats that exhibited symptoms of depression were shown to improve the same day they were given a single dose of CBD—and these improvements lasted for a week. The trial, comprised of 367 rats and mice lines, were cross-bred to develop depression symptoms. Before some animals were subjected to the test, researchers administered CBD to some and a saline to the others, or the control group. The animals were then exposed to a stressful test; they were subjected to a forced swim test, forcing the animals to float. The animals that were given CBD showed both acute (30 minutes) and sustained (7 days) antidepressant-like effects when exposed to the stress-inducing situation. Moreover, the acute effects were shown to increase synaptophysin expression and PSD95 in the medial prefrontal cortex, as well as increased BDNF levels in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for emotion, memory and the automatic nervous system. Depression has been shown to shrink the hippocampus, impairing long-term memory, storing new memories, and associating these memories with emotions.
Repairing Neuronal Circuitry
The animals that were given CBD showed an increase in synaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex—remarkably close to how depression is exhibited in humans. The researchers concluded that CBD generates neuroplastic mechanisms that are shown to repair depression-damaged neuronal circuitry in humans.
Further research may suggest that CBD may offer an immediate solution to improving suicidal ideation in those who have shown to be at a higher risk of suicide. The study is a breakthrough not only in the sense that it has shown CBD to have a quick, sustained impact on symptoms of depression, but that it can also provide a base for further research into how CBD improves depression; when coupled with traditional antidepressants, CBD may offer a solution that allows patients to take these antidepressants in smaller doses—or remove the need for them completely.