How Weed Can Help Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s cold outside, and dark. Time to toke.

Winter is upon us. The days are short, the nights are long, and what little daylight we get is often gray and dim, cloud cover blotting out a sun that barely makes it over the horizon. Not seeing the sun for long stretches at a time has a real chemical effect on our bodies and minds. When our eyes are exposed to sunlight, our brain releases serotonin, a hormone that makes us feel motivation to get up and do things, but can also boost our happiness. When our eyes are exposed to darkness, our brains release melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy and sometimes depressed. In winter, many people experience a drop in their serotonin production and a rise in their melatonin, a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder.

It has long been thought that marijuana actually compounds the effects of SAD, as weed has often been labeled a mild depressant. However, a fantastic research paper was published last year in the journal Neuropharmacology detailing the usage of CBD to combat depression, with scientists claiming that CBD “induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects.”

And so stocking up on CBD-rich cannabis in winter can be a great way to alleviate the doldrums. A sativa like the world-famous Charlotte’s Web or a hybrid like ACDC will provide ample amounts of CBD with almost no THC, allowing for all the benefits of an antidepressant without actually getting high. If you do want to get stoned, sativas like Harlequin, MediHaze, and Dance World or hybrids like Blueberry Essence and Sour Tsunami all provide uplifting, inspirational, motivational highs perfect for impromptu dance parties in the living room or art jams with friends. For those who suffer from cabin fever and insomnia during the long nights, indicas like Critical Mass and Stephen Hawking Kush are superchill-inducing relaxation buds.

Another powerful remedy for SAD is exercise, and cannabis can help here too. Any exercise, even walking, causes the brain to release endocannabinoids—chemical compounds released naturally in the body that act just like THC and can affect our mood and appetite and provide pain relief. But getting a little high before a run or a workout can speed the process and allow you to push through any aches and pains you might feel from being out of practice or stiff from the cold. It can also create a clear-headed high that promotes profound introspection, as well as space to brainstorm creative solutions to personal or professional problems. Getting high before exercise isn’t for everyone, so listen to your body and decide if it’s right for you.

Finally, light therapy is a classic treatment for SAD, and here again cannabis can be an ally. Grow your own happiness! Grow lights are bright and the same spectrum of blue-white light that the sun provides—just what our body needs to trigger serotonin production. Moreover, the act of growing and caring for something, watching the fruit of your labor slowly reveal itself, can be quite inspirational and a reward in its own right.

Of course, under current Washington law, only medicinal users are allowed to grow their own plants. Oddly, Washington is the only state that allows recreational usage but doesn’t allow those users to grow their own. But if State Rep. Sherry Appleton from Poulsbo gets her newly introduced bill passed, anyone over 21 will be able to grow up to six plants and harvest up to 24 ounces at a time. And that is something to smile about.