A retrospective study by Harvest Medicine in Canada has found that using medical cannabis can help patients treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Researchers wanted to understand the impact medical cannabis had on outcomes for patients experiencing anxiety or depression. By looking at data from 7,362 patients who received their medical cannabis documentation and allotment from the Calgary clinic, the study found improved outcomes after initiating medical cannabis treatment and at the one-year follow-up.

Results of the study, which were recently published in Psychiatry Research, showed that patients seeking medical cannabis for either anxiety or depression saw improved outcomes over time. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires for anxiety (GAD-7) and depression (PHQ-9) at their initial evaluation and at least one follow-up visit. Researchers noted that “there were statistically significant improvements between baseline and follow-up scores for both the GAD-7 and PHQ-9, with larger improvements seen for patients who were actively seeking medical cannabis to treat anxiety or depression.”

The researchers also noted that after 12 months, participants reported a GAD-7 score decrease of  “greater than the minimum clinically important difference of four”, suggesting  the study “provides some evidence to support the effectiveness of medical cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and depression.”

A 2021 observational study into cannabis, involving a mixture of cannabis and non cannabis using participants, also found that people who consumed cannabis experienced lower levels of depression, with some showing an improvement in their anxiety levels.

Participants in the 2021 study were asked to complete an online survey to report their current experiences with anxiety and depression, alongside sleep quality, quality of life, chronic pain issues and their use of cannabis.

The experiences the participants detailed in their online surveys were analysed by researchers who used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Scores on the HADS above 8 are considered to indicate a clinical concern, some of the participants scored up to 21.

Results of the 2021 study showed that those already taking cannabis reported lower levels of depression, but not anxiety. Those taking cannabis were also more likely to have a HADS score of less than 8 compared to the control group. Other positives reported in the cannabis-using group when compared to the control group were improved sleep and a better quality of life.

Patients using cannabis to treat anxiety and depression experience improved outcomes

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