German researchers have found patients with chronic depression experienced significant improvements after treatment with medicinal cannabis and only mild side effects.
In the retrospective, 18-week longitudinal study conducted by therapy network Algea Care and Essen’s LVR University Hospital, 59 outpatients with major depressive disorder (MDD) were treated with medicinal cannabis via a telemedical platform.
Previous treatment with antidepressant medication was required for participants to be included, with data collected at entry and during monthly consultations. Severity of depression was measured on a 0-10 point rating scale while side-effects were assessed by a checklist.
Patients were aged 20 to 54, with 72.9% identifying as male. One third reported times of regular cannabis consumption within the previous five years and the drop-out rate was 22% after 18 weeks.
Mean severity of depression decreased from 6.9 points at entry to 3.8 points at week 18, while just over half of patients saw a more than a 50% reduction in their initial score at the end of the study.
One third of patients complained about side effects such as dry eyes, dry mouth and increased appetite, but none were considered severe.
The researchers conclude: “Medical cannabis was well tolerated and dropout rate was comparable to those in clinical trials of antidepressant medication.
“Patients reported a clinically significant reduction of depression severity. Further research on the effectiveness of medical cannabis for MDD seems warranted.
“Risks of this medication, such as sustaining or inducing a cannabis use disorder, or side effects such as poor concentration, must be taken into consideration.”