Medical Cannabis and Anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion typically characterized by a state of inner turmoil. People experiencing anxiety typically describe it as a feeling of unease or worry usually about an upcoming event or situation. Those experiencing anxiety can also have side effects such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints (physical symptoms of anxiety such as butterflies in the stomach) and rumination. While anxiety in small amounts can be a good thing, it is typically an unpleasant and unwanted sensation.
Anxiety disorders such as PTSD, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, and a myriad of others can impact people’s work, relationships, and other aspects of their life. Anxiety disorders can be caused by various things; the most common of which were drug abuse, stress, and genetics. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S, and nearly a third of adults are affected by one at some point in their lives globally.
Typical treatments include avoiding alcohol and caffeine, cognitive behavioral therapy, clinical psychology, and benzodiazepine medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. So how can medical cannabis be used as a treatment?
Marijuana by nature is often described to be relaxing, calming, and stress relieving. With stress being one of the main causes of anxiety, if cannabis can reduce stress then it will, in turn, reduce anxiety. When cannabis is ingested, naturally occurring cannabinoids are replenished in the endocannabinoid system. Some research has pointed to the fact that those with chronic stress have an endocannabinoid deficiency. So, if by refilling the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids reduces one of the main causes of anxiety; That’s score one for cannabis.
A Canadian study published on April 7th, 2017 showed that medical marijuana can be a safe anxiety treatment alternative to benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines have numerous unwanted side effects as well as a high potential of abuse. Marijuana, on the other hand, has been shown to have very few negative side effects in the large majority of users. The study found that 40% of patients who were given medical cannabis to treat anxiety stopped using benzodiazepines within 90 days of using cannabis. In Canada, approximately 10% of the population uses benzodiazepines daily.
When using cannabis to treat anxiety, it’s important to discover if THC or CBD helps you more. Most people report that strains with high THC content have a higher potential to increase their anxiety. Whereas strains with high CBD content and lower THC content will have a higher potential to reduce their anxiety. While the reverse can also be true, it’s recommended for new users to try a high-CBD strain for the first time they treat their symptoms with cannabis.
One important factor to note is dosage, many people report reduced anxiety in low dosages of cannabis. However, in higher dosages of marijuana, more people report temporary spikes in their anxiety. So for those who are not used to taking cannabis as a treatment, it’s usually best to start off with a relatively small dose. Another thing worth noting would be the environment. You are more likely to experience negative side effects and/or an increase in anxiety when taking cannabis in an unfamilliar or unpleasant situation. When using cannabis as an anxiety treatment, it’s best to take the substance in a place and/or with people you feel comfortable with.
Overall medical marijuana certainly seems like it has what it takes to treat the majority of anxiety disorders. If you or someone you know is living with one, the only thing left to do is try!