CBD oil and SSRIs (Antidepressants)

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In Canada, about 11% of men and 16% of women will experience major depression over the course of their lives. However, the growing awareness of mental health issues and the advancement of both medication and natural treatments means that, for many people, depression can be treated effectively.

While depression affects everyone differently, there are typical ways to treat and deal with symptoms of this common yet sometimes debilitating disorder. For less severe cases, endorphin-boosting activities such as exercise or other hobbies are known to naturally raise the “happy chemical” in the body, serotonin. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet, plenty of Vitamin D, and of course, a strong support system, as well as a personal support network all help deal with depression.

Supplements and medication like antidepressants are also commonly used depending on the severity of the condition, and in many cases, a mix of the above-mentioned solutions are used together in treatment regimens.

Antidepressants SSRIs vs CBD Oil

CBD oil has emerged in recent years as a natural treatment for mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. As more research and information around the benefits of CBD and mental health become available, the conversation around CBD oil and SSRIs (antidepressants) becomes more promising for those looking for more natural solutions to antidepressants.

How do antidepressants work?

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), better known as antidepressant medications, work to increase the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are chemicals in the brain that impact mood and feelings of well-being. SSRIs help to increase the activity of these specific neurotransmitters, thereby decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Antidepressants can take several weeks for a person to feel their effects, and sometimes there are side effects such as nausea, increased appetite, dry mouth, and fatigue (among others). However, according to CAMH, these drugs help to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety in up to 70% of people who try them, and many people do not experience any side effects at all.

Can CBD oil and antidepressants work to treat depression?

CBD has increasingly been included as a natural solution to deal with mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It works with the body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a group of receptors in our bodies’ central nervous system that specifically interact with cannabinoids to maintain homeostasis throughout the body. The ECS supports a healthy physical and mental balance.

As the central nervous system helps regulate our body’s hormones (such as cortisol, the stress hormone, or melatonin, the sleep hormone) CBD works with the ECS to regulate hormone-related issues. This is one of the reasons why CBD is so effective for those who suffer from anxiety and sleep disorders. 

CBD’s anti-stress effect makes it a viable treatment for those suffering from depression and anxiety. By creating that feeling of homeostasis for mental and physical balance, CBD helps to relax the body and mind, keeping mood, anxiety, and depression at bay, as well as making sleep easier to achieve.

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Studies have shown that CBD has a positive interaction with serotonin, and balancing the body’s serotonin levels is essential therapy for those with depression. An early study found CBD works to stimulate 5-HT1A serotonin receptor in mice, producing more serotonin without the need for another supplement like SSRIs.

Brain scans of those who suffer from major depression and anxiety have shown that the hippocampus in the brain, critical for a variety of functions including emotion and memory, is smaller than those who do not have these mental conditions.

For those with depression, neurons are formed slowly, which can lead to feelings of anxiousness or even suicidal thoughts. According to another study, a single dose of CBD oil helped increase blood flow to the hippocampus, which shows promise in treating symptoms of psychosis, depression, memory disorders, and anxiety.

Is it safe to take CBD oil and SSRI antidepressants?

While more scientific research is needed to see how CBD oil and SSRIs can work together, medical experts say it is safe for CBD oil and SSRIs to be taken together. 

Two possible interferences between CBD and SSRIs involve how enzymes found in CBD interact with the body and the way CBD inhibits the body’s system that metabolizes SSRIs. 

Enzymes found in CBD are proteins that can speed up chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes help with digestion and other functions, such as respiration. These enzymes can therefore cause your body to potentially have higher doses of anti-anxiety medications or certain antipsychotic medications. 

CBD enzymes can also metabolize antidepressants. As CBD impedes the body’s system that metabolizes certain SSRIs, this could interfere with how these medications are metabolized if/when taken with CBD oil or other products, making them potentially less effective.

While CBD oil shows promise in treating depression, it should not be regarded as a replacement for prescribed antidepressants. Always consult with your doctor or health care provider if you are on any type of prescription medication prior to supplementing CBD oil into your treatment regimen.

CBD is safe for most people, with little to no side effects, unlike SSRIs. CBD can also work to almost instantly treat symptoms caused by depression, whereas it may take weeks for someone to feel the effects of antidepressants.

How to use CBD oil for depression

If you’re looking to incorporate CBD oil with antidepressant use or want to try CBD oil on its own to help deal with depression; a key point of note is to start with a low dose and gradually increase dosage as needed. 

For those new to CBD the recommended dose is 5-10 mg once or twice a day and increasing the dosage by ~5 mg every 2-3 days, or as needed to find the right dose for your needs. CBD is bi-phasic, meaning there is an optimal dose range for each individual regarding the use of CBD (or other cannabinoids for that matter) – more is not necessarily better. 

CBD as antidepressant dosing in coffee

The right dose for everyone will be different, especially considering the symptoms you’re trying to treat as well as your receptiveness to CBD. Dosage is dependent on a variety of factors, including body weight, genetics, diet, metabolism, certain medications, medical conditions, and the quality and formulation of the CBD product. A typical dose range is between 10mg-40mg per day, typically spaced out in four to six hour intervals. 

Check out this dosage chart to find a starting point for your individual dosage based on weight and condition severity.

It’s important to look for quality CBD oil and also understand what type of extraction you want to consume. There are three common types of CBD extractions that are used in CBD products: full spectrum, isolate, and broad spectrum CBD. Each type of CBD offers different benefits and can make a big difference when selecting the type to treat specific health uses.

Full spectrum CBD is a whole plant extract that contains CBD and all 100+ other cannabinoids, amino acids, and essential oils found within the plant. These compounds all have various benefits and work together in what is known as the “entourage effect” to increase efficacy. For this reason, full spectrum CBD is often considered the best type of extraction and is typically priced higher.

Broad Spectrum CBD is very similar to full spectrum with one key difference: all trace amounts of THC have been removed completely. Although the hemp plant naturally contains very little amounts of THC (less than 0.3% by weight) broad spectrum CBD is devoid of virtually all THC. 

Isolate CBD is 99% pure CBD. In isolate CBD, the whole plant extract has been further refined to isolate the CBD compound, thereby removing all other cannabinoids, essential oils, and amino acids. While this is the purest form of CBD, it does not deliver the so-called “entourage effect”.

When looking for solutions and treatments for depression, it’s most important to note you are not alone. Depression and anxiety are among the most common health issues facing adults today. Apart from seeking professional help, other solutions include exercise, meditation, and personal hobbies help naturally boost serotonin and decrease depressing thoughts or feelings. As always, when prescribed medication is needed, do your research and consult a physician before exploring your options with CBD and other solutions.

Written by Rosalyn Solomon

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