Anxiety. The modern mental illness. People are plagued with too much on their plates at work, pressure from social media and society to be productive, or living their “best lives”. All of this creating a storm in a teacup that is sometimes too much for people to tolerate – but where do cannabis and anxiety come in to play?
An obsession with the future, whether we’re doing enough, being productive enough, are clever enough, has led to anxiety affecting more than 40 million adults in the US alone. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about 36% of people receive treatment for this mental health issue.
The classical treatments of anxiety have been medications like SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). However, these drugs are often accompanied by a slew of negative side effects, including nausea, insomnia, headaches, as well as reduced libido and erectile dysfunction.
With the legalization of cannabis on the horizon for much of the world, and many states in the US already legalizing it for medicinal use, more and more anxiety sufferers are looking to cannabis and cannabis products for relief.
While research in this area is relatively new, there are promising reports of marijuana creating calming results for people suffering from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).
Cannabis is Complicated, and so is Anxiety
Just as all people are different, all strains of weed are different, too. There are hundreds of compounds, known as cannabinoids, produced but the cannabis plant. And when it comes to anxiety, the role of THC and CBD may differ among users.
Anxiety can be anticipatory, generalised, or it may be connected to depression and other comorbidities like eating disorders. This means that different people, depending on their particular brand of anxiety, will respond differently to a therapeutic treatment using cannabis.
Strains higher in THC may be a great therapeutic treatment for someone whose anxiety is closely linked with depression or a general feeling of dysphoria.
On the other hand, THC can also increase heart rate and racing thoughts, which may flare up certain types of anxiety disorders. This I where CBD comes in.
CBD, the non-psychotropic part of the cannabinoids found in marijuana, doesn’t give any of the negative side effects associated with THC.
It may help alleviate anticipatory anxiety, generalized social anxiety and has even been shown to help with panic disorders as it does interact with the serotonin system in the body.
Terpenes, the fragrant oils in marijuana that give it its distinct scent, are another important part of choosing the correct strain. If you’re looking to quell your anxiety, you should be looking for a strain that is high in linalool, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene
Research on Marijuana and Anxiety
As a general rule, lower doses of high THC strains are better for anxiety than higher doses, which can be anxiety-inducing for some.
The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS system is the system in our body that resides in our brains, skin, gut, and organs, and plays a large role in ensuring the body functions optimally. Studies have shown that the ECS system is vital in regulating fear, anxiety, and stress responses. Notably, cannabinoid receptors are abundant in areas of our brains that are responsible for fear and anxiety. This is why cannabis, which exogenously provides cannabinoids to the body and ECS system, may play a role in reducing anxiety.
Mixing Marijuana with Traditional Medicine
While there is little evidence to suggest that mixing marijuana with an SSRI is dangerous, it is always best to consult your primary care provider before mixing the two.
Marijuana can also have potentially dangerous side effects when combined with sedatives like Xanax, tricyclic antidepressants, and MAOI’s.
Marijuana is not a miracle cure, but simply a tool that can be added to your toolbox to help deal with anxiety. Any time you take it upon yourself to use a substance to treat or cope with a medical problem, there is a risk involved. Cannabis may be helpful in dulling the unbearable symptoms that come with anxiety and may allow us to move functionally from day to day and foster healthier habits in the process.
Once you find the correct strain for your anxiety, cannabis can help ease stress, and motivate you to take care of yourself. It may help spark creativity and interest in projects that will help you stay present rather than worrying about the future or rehashing the past.