Research paper A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect (Journal of Affective Disorders) (1August2018)

Author links open overlay panelCarrieCuttlerabAlexanderSpradlinaRyan J.McLaughlinabcShow moreAdd to MendeleyShareCite rights and contentUnder a Creative Commons licenseopen access


Cannabis significantly reduced ratings of depression, anxiety, and stress.•

Women reported larger reductions in anxiety as a function of cannabis than did men.•

Low THC/high CBD cannabis was best for reducing perceived symptoms of depression.•

High THC/high CBD cannabis was best for reducing perceived symptoms of stress.•

Use of cannabis to treat depression appears to exacerbate depression over time.



Cannabis is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of negative affect. However, a paucity of research has examined the acute effects of cannabis on negative affect in everyday life. The current study provides a naturalistic account of perceived changes in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress as a function of dose and concentration of Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).


Data from the app StrainprintTM (which provides medical cannabis users a means of tracking changes in symptoms as a function of different doses and chemotypes of cannabis) were analyzed using multilevel modeling. In total, 11,953 tracked sessions were analyzed (3,151 for depression, 5,085 for anxiety, and 3,717 for stress).


Medical cannabis users perceived a 50% reduction in depression and a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use. Two puffs were sufficient to reduce ratings of depression and anxiety, while 10+ puffs produced the greatest perceived reductions in stress. High CBD (>9.5%)/low THC (<5.5%) cannabis was associated with the largest changes in depression ratings, while high CBD (>11%)/high THC (>26.5%) cannabis produced the largest perceived changes in stress. No changes in the perceived efficacy of cannabis were detected across time. However, baseline symptoms of depression (but not anxiety or stress) appeared to be exacerbated across time/tracked sessions.


The primary limitations are the self-selected nature of the sample and the inability to control for expectancy effects.


Cannabis reduces perceived symptoms of negative affect in the short-term, but continued use may exacerbate baseline symptoms of depression over time.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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