Marijuana has been proven to help those suffering from different levels of anxiety. Certain strains contain anti-anxiety properties, such as heavy indicas. However, using even the correct strain of cannabis to treat or alleviate the condition is not necessarily for everyone. This article explores the use of marijuana to treat and alleviate anxiousness.
Marijuana for Anxiety
There have been mixed reports of how marijuana both helps in relieving and/or increasing anxiety and stress in different individuals. You will meet individuals that have experienced extreme panic after being “too high.” In the same breath, you will hear an equally large group giving stories of how marijuana changed their lives by relieving them of chronic anxiety.
Many studies have shown that marijuana has relaxing properties that can help individuals suffering from this condition. The brain has various cannabinoid receptors in multiple parts that can bind with some compounds in cannabis to affect conditions such as anxiety by influencing the endocannabinoid system.
Due to limited knowledge of how the endocannabinoid system works, however, there have been varying effects of how marijuana affects different people. This has been associated with various factors such as the chemical composition of the strain, pre-existing conditions, dosage, drug tolerance, etc. As such, one may experience either increased stress levels or relaxation. Before we go on, let us first take a quick look at this condition.
What is anxiety?
Anxiousness is described as an emotional state whereby an individual portrays excessive and maladaptive emotional reaction to situations which may be potentially uncomfortable. Anxiety is our way of coping with potential future risks and can act to motivate us into doing useful tasks such as paying bills and studying for exams.
Nonetheless, when persistent, they can become part of daily life and lead to some kind of neurological disorder. This will in turn impact work, relationships and overall health negatively, There are many types of anxiety disorder, these include:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Social anxiety disorder/social phobia.
Mental conditions resulting from anxiety are difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. Prescription drugs are commonly prescribed to treat work on some patients while some individuals have reported negative side effects that have limited their abilities to lead a quality life. The most common drugs prescribed are:
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Ativan (lorazepam)
The medical community has not been able to establish the exact cause of anxiety disorders. However, like other kinds of neurological disorders, they are as a result of a combination of numerous factors such as environmental stress, changes in brain function or even genetic.
A full medical history might have to be taken before being diagnosed with anxiety. this is because these disorders have been shown to run along family trees and are linked to abnormal brain circuits that control emotions, including fear. Anxiety disorders cannot be tested in a lab.
These disorders vary slightly in terms of how the symptoms manifest. They, however, share some common ones, which include:
- Problems with sleep
- Inability to stay still/relaxed even when in calm environments
- Shortness of breath
- Panic, fear, anxiousness
- Cold, sweaty, shaky or numb hands
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitations
- Tensing of muscles
How Marijuana can help with Anxiety
So far, one of the most commonly cited reasons for cannabis use has been to treat this horrible and lingering condition. Scientists are making great strides, learning how the compounds in marijuana affect mood and emotions, and how they can be utilized as effective treatments for various forms of this disorders.
The use of marijuana for treating symptoms caused by anxiety can be traced as far back as 1563, when Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese doctor recorded that cannabis can relieve patients from “all cares and worries.”
Many people self-medicating with marijuana have reported feelings of relaxation, calmness and even hypnosis. Many long-term users have also cited that the drug helps them manage anxiety by reducing stress levels and creating a calming effect. Besides the anecdotal evidence, there are also been a considerable amount of scientific studies to bolster the claims.
For instance, in a 2014 research carried out at Vanderbilt University, it was found that using marijuana increases the number of endocannabinoids in the amygdala area of the brain in mice. When anxious, the levels of these naturally-occurring chemicals reduce and some scientists think this could be the major cause of anxiety-related conditions.
After 90 days of using prescribed medical marijuana for anxiety and pain, a study done in Canada reported that 40% of the subjects were able to get off benzodiazepines. This a common over-the-counter drug that comes with a lot of negative side effects as well as a high potential for abuse.
Another study suggested that marijuana could help patients diagnosed with PTSD due to the role it plays in memory extinction. The drug can help patients suppress negative memories and experiences which may be the root cause of their anxiety.
In another research carried out in 2010, a small subject group of 10 patients who had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) reported considerable improvement in both mood and how their brains reacted to anxiety after receiving an oral dose of 400 mg of cannabidiol (CBD). To see if there were any changes in brain activity that corresponded with the findings, brain scans of the patients’ cerebral blood flow were taken. The scans revealed major changes in blood flow specifically to the areas of the brain that control emotions, suggesting its sedating and relaxing properties.
Lastly, a study investigating the effects of cannabis on anxiety asked participants asked to report their degree of anxiousness before and after performing before an audience using a pre-determined scale. The study was designed such that it would inflict maximum mental stress in order to test the ability of marijuana to cure or reduce the expected anxiety and cognitive impairment common in patients with the anxiety-related disorder. Following many replications of the test, the examiners concluded that 300 mg of CBD oil was able to impact the performance of the individuals positively by keeping them relaxed.
Can Marijuana Cause Anxiety?
Marijuana has also been shown to cause a short-term increase in heart rate especially when taken in huge doses. It has also been shown that newcomers are more susceptible to experiencing anxiousness or paranoia after consuming marijuana. Extreme anxiety can also manifest as a side-effect of halting the use of cannabis.
Some studies have also shown a minor relation between anxiety and marijuana consumption. Particularly, there is evidence suggesting that people with anxiety are more likely to turn to marijuana as an alternative according to a review done on 30 different studies.
Currently, scientists are torn between whether the increase in anxiety levels are caused by the use of cannabis or the condition was already pre-existing before the individuals turned to cannabis use.
CBD vs THC
The two major chemical compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol oil (CBD) cause different effects. Many researchers have found that CBD induces relaxation while THC is more likely to elevate uneasiness.
- THC: responsible for the psychoactive effects or “getting high,” that some find helpful for managing their anxiety while for some it worsens the condition
- CBD: works on serotonin receptors and there is some evidence suggesting that it may help with regenerating brain cells.
Scientists still do not understand the complex interactions between THC and CBD but currently, the rule of thumb is that strains with higher CBD are more likely to reduce anxiety while those high in THC increase the condition.
Dosage is also crucial in preventing cannabis-induced anxiety. Since the plant lacks the necessary oversight, however, this task is mostly up to the patient to figure what works best for them.
Terpenes are another group of chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. These aromatic essential oils play a crucial role in determining the flavor and the effect the strain will have on the body.
The terpene profile in each strain is, therefore, an important factor to consider when using marijuana as an alternative. For instance, strains with high levels of a terpene known as limonene tend to bring about a cheerful mood while those high in myrcene tend to be more sedating. Linalool is a sweet and flowery terpene that helps fight this condition.
To start you off, here are some strains that are commonly used to treat anxiousness:
- Blue dream
- Sour grape
- AK Cherry Lime
- Lemon skunk
- Glass slipper
Having periodic episodes of anxiety attacks and stress does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from an anxiety-related disorder. It has to be persistent enough to significantly affect the quality of life. Marijuana is proving to be a promising player in the fight against these disorders which interfere negatively with the ability to lead a normal life.
Though research is limited especially due to the high regulation of the drug, there is enough proof showing that when used wisely, the drug can help manage some of the symptoms caused by anxiety.