Can Cannabis Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Learn the benefits of Cannabis and Seasonal Affective Disorder and how this powerful plant can help relieve S.A.D. symptoms throughout the winter months.
cannabis and seasonal affective disorder

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs during the fall and winter when the days get shorter and darker. It isn’t entirely clear what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) and why it only affects some individuals. It is believed to be due to a lack of sunlight and depleted vitamin D levels, but that may not be the entire story. SAD is also associated with decreased levels of serotonin and there is some speculation it is a genetic condition. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 13-17% of individuals with SAD have an immediate family member who suffers from the disorder as well.

Regardless of what causes it, Seasonal Affective Disorder heavily affects 2% to 3% of the general population with an additional 15% of individuals displaying a milder version of the condition. SAD primarily affects adults and women are 9 times more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men. INterestingly enough, after the age of 50, the risk of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder decreases significantly – a phenomenon not yet explained by research.

This condition has a wide-range of symptoms – many of which are similar to depression – including, but not limited to:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Increased appetite, cravings for unhealthy foods and weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Feeling exhausted, lacking energy
  • Decreased interest in work and social activities

Treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder

There are a number of therapy options for individuals suffering from SAD. One of the most common treatments is light therapy, which involves sitting near a special lamp for 30 minutes per day. This artificial daylight produces a chemical change in the brain, similar to daylight, which can relieve symptoms. In fact, 60-80% of SAD sufferers find light therapy to be sufficient. For more severe cases, individuals may seek medication or counselling to help improve their symptoms and outlook during the winter months.

cannabis and seasonal affective disorder

Cannabis and Seasonal Affective Disorder

For individuals looking for different therapy options, or who may not have had success with traditional routes, medical marijuana is a great option for relieving symptoms.

A 2010 study found that the use of CBD can reduce social anxiety disorders, which can have positive benefits for individuals who are feeling antisocial due to the effects of SAD. Furthermore, a 2014 study found that CBD has powerful antidepressant properties. Lastly, a 2016 case study revealed that CBD is excellent therapy for anxiety and insomnia associated with PTSD and may also have positive effects on the disrupted sleep cycle experienced by SAD patients.

THC can also be a beneficial anti anxiety treatment, but some individuals experience an adverse reaction causing them to feel more anxious. According to one study, doses of 7.5 mg of THC provide patients with a mild elevation of mood and sense of well-being where an increased dose of 12.5 mg of THC made subjects anxious. For this reason, THC is best used in smaller doses to manage anxiety or in conjunction with CBD such as by smoking high-CBD flower or taking 1:1 tinctures.

cannabis and seasonal affective disorder

Best Strains for Seasonal Affective Disorder

The ideal strains for managing SAD are CBD-high strains with Sativa or hybrid genetics. Indica strains tend to be very relaxing but can also be sedative and depressing in large doses and should be avoided. On the other hand, Sativa strains have potent cerebral effects that play a part in improving mood and well-being and can provide a helpful boost in energy. In addition, strains that are high in CBD (versus THC) are a better choice.

Many of these strains will produce a clear-headed cerebral buzz that blasts away depression, anxiety and fatigue to help you feel more like you!

Some of the best strains for Seasonal Affective Disorder include:

Sativa-Dominant Options

Perfect for wake-and-bake or for a little daytime pick me up, Sativa strains offer a boost in mood and energy without the overly sedated feeling. Here are our top picks for Sativa strains to battle SAD:

  • Pineapple Express: If you are looking for an energetic buzz to get through the afternoon, Pineapple Express is sure to deliver! This strain has a 60:40 Sativa/Indica split that provides both a calming and stimulating high and is ideally suited for managing SAD symptoms including anxiety, stress and depression.
  • Super Silver Haze: A lovely daytime treat, Super Silver Haze is a potent Sativa-dominant strain that produces an energetic body high as well as a pleasant mood boost. With THC levels ranging from 20-23%, this strain packs a punch and is perfect for helping you get up-and-atter when you feel like staying in bed.
  • Chocolope: Hailed as a blasting, euphoric experience that can make you forget everything, Chocolope is a great choice for Sativa strain. Featuring potent THC levels, this strain is best taken in small doses (especially if you’re a beginner) and delivers heavy cerebral effects that combine a hard-hitting euphoria with energizing and creative boosts.
  • Jack Herer: One of the best known strains in America, Jack Herer is a 55:45 Sativa-dominant strain with potent THC levels around 20-23%. This strain is a favourite for a reason thanks to its euphoric, energetic and creative high that helps to spur activity and get things done!

High-CBD, Low-THC Options

As discussed, high CBD strains are the better option for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some great high-CBD strains include:

  • Charlotte’s Web: With CBD levels around 17% and THC less than 1%, Charlotte’s Web is a solid high-CBD choice for the winter blues. The CBD nature of this strain provides a pleasant boost in mood, focus and energy while also calming the mind.
  • AC/DC: Containing less than 1% THC, AC/DC is a high-CBD strain that is ideal for improving focus and for socializing. This strain has a Sativa-dominant nature, providing a boost in mood and energy to help you get through the day – even when you’re not sure you can.
  • Harlequin: Containing a bit more THC than the other options, Harlequin is still a high-CBD strain with 15-20% CBD and 4-10% THC levels. The Sativa-dominant nature and high CBD content results in relaxing and clear-headed cerebral effects complete with euphoria, mental focus, clarity and a boost in energy to banish SAD.
  • Pennywise: A mixture of Harlequin and Jack The Ripper, Pennywise averages 12% CBD with THC levels ranging from 8-15%. The Indica-dominant nature of this strain makes it ideal for evening use, providing clear-headed effects including physical relaxation and a quiet euphoria.

Indica Options

Sometimes, in the evening, an Indica strain will be perfect to help relax you after a long day and ensure that you get your much-needed rest. Some choices for evening Indica strains include:

  • Granddaddy Purple: A hard-hitting Indica-dominant strain, Granddaddy Purple produces heavy physical effects that produce full body relaxation and can help users feel calm. Ideal for helping individuals get some much needed rest, Granddaddy Purple is a great evening strain to help reduce tension and relieve stress.
  • Northern Lights: Particularly well suited to managing insomnia, Northern Lights is a great evening option for individuals suffering from SAD. Despite being more exhausted than usual, SAD sufferers often have trouble sleeping due to changes in serotonin and melatonin levels. Let Northern Lights help ease you to sleep and forget all your troubles.

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