Medical Cannabis for Treating Depression: A Naturalistic Outpatient Study

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Clinically significant reductions in symptoms were reported.

Citing a lack of research on medical cannabis as a treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD), researchers in Germany and Sweden conducted a test on the effectiveness and safety of cannabis for MDD symptoms (1). The study, “Effectiveness of Medical Cannabis for the Treatment of Depression: A Naturalistic Outpatient Study,” was published in the journal Pharmacopsychiatry in January 2024 (1).

In this study, 59 patients, all of whom had previously been treated with medication for MDD, were studied over 18 weeks in 2021 after being prescribed via a telemedicine platform a cannabis flower to be vaporized as treatment for their symptoms (1,2). Data was collected at the beginning of the study and during monthly follow ups where symptoms were measured on a scale of 1–10 (1). The patients were ages 20–54, and 73% were male, and a third of the patients reported some regular cannabis use within the past five years (1). The telemedicine was provided by Algea, a telemedical platform provider (1).


As stated in the abstract, results of the study included the following (1):

  • Mean severity of depression decreased from 6.9 points (SD 1.5) at entry to 3.8 points (2.7) at week 18
  • A treatment response (>50% reduction of the initial score) was seen in 50.8% at week 18
  • A drop-out rate of 22% after 18 weeks
  • Concomitant antidepressant medication (31% of patients) was not associated with outcome.

Adverse effects were gauged by a checklist and reported by a third of the patients, but the effects were not considered severe (1).

“These results are extremely promising and encouraging, as they expand the evidence for the continued use of medical cannabis in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses in Germany,” Julian Wichmann, founder and CEO of Algea Care, said in an article in Forbes (2). “In addition, the study lays the foundation for future research projects on the effects of cannabis therapy in the treatment of mental health conditions and illnesses.”

The researchers stated that the results from this study suggested further research was needed and would need to consider risks such as developing a cannabis use disorder or other side effects from the medical cannabis (1).


  1. Specka, M.; Bonnet, U.; Schmidberg, L.; Wichmann, J.; Keller, M.; Scholze, C.; Scherbaum, N. Effectiveness of medical cannabis for the treatment of depression: A naturalistic outpatient study. Pharmacopsychiatry 2024 DOI: 10.1055/a-2215-6114.
  2. Herrington, A. J. New Study finds medical marijuana improves depression symptoms (accessed Feb 13, 2024).