Does Cannabis Relieve Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness or restlessness; it can manifest as an experience of uncertainty or unease and might be accompanied by a multitude of physical symptoms, like increased heart rate and sweating. Some strains of cannabis can help relieve anxiety. However, there are some risks to consider as well.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural feeling that manifests in times of stress. It’s often associated with elevated cortisol levels.
Biologically, anxiety is intended to heighten our senses and make us more aware of our surroundings in order to prepare us for us for an oncoming challenge or confrontation.
Anxiety often accompanies illness and inflammation (inflammation is also correlated with increased cortisol levels).
Constant or unrelenting anxiety is a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Without treatment, an anxiety disorder can significantly impair people’s function and decrease their quality of life.
How Cannabis Helps Anxiety
Some strains of marijuana can act as a powerful anti-anxiety medication. Many compounds in cannabis, such as CBD and delta-8 THC, have anxiolytic, or anti-anxiety effects.
Research Demonstrates Cannabinoids Relieve Anxiety
Cannabis contains numerous cannabinoids and terpenes which can all have anxiety relieving properties. These chemicals can also interact with each other to relieve anxiety.
Research shows several cannabinoids have anxiety relieving qualities. Numerous human studies show CBD helps relieve anxiety; the National Cancer Institute defines delta-8 THC as an anxiolytic; and research from the 1970’s suggests CBG has anti-anxiety properties as well.
How Does Cannabis Reduce Anxiety?
The exact mechanism of how cannabis reduces anxiety is not fully understood. It’s likely that several different physiological actions cause the anxiolytic effects of marijuana.
Cannabis Enhances Serotonin Signaling
Animal studies show that cannabis can boost serotonin signaling. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in depression and anxiety. Enhancing serotonin signaling may help relieve anxiety.
Cannabis Can Spur Neurogenesis
Animal studies show that cannabis can spur neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Numerous studies have shown individuals suffering from anxiety exhibit changes in the hippocampus. Growth and changes in neurons in the hippocampal region may explain the anxiolytic effects of marijuana.
Cannabis Affects Brain Blood Flow
Research published in the Journal of Pharmacology investigated the blood flow in the brain of patients suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). A type of anxiety disorder. Neuroimaging exhibited brain blood flow changes in cannabis patients during treatment. The study found, “relative to placebo, CBD was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety”.
Wait, I Heard Cannabis Causes Anxiety… What’s the Deal?
There are actually different analogues, or slightly different types, of THC and each causes slightly different physiological effects.
Delta-8 THC has been deemed an anxiolytic, and while Delta-9 THC (the more commonly available version of THC) has the potential to trigger anxiety in some people.
How to Avoid THC-Induced Anxiety
Research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that patients should combine CBD and THC together to avoid THC-induced anxiety.
CBD helps prevent anxiety when taken with THC. CBD can also help relieve any anxiety caused by THC when administered after.
How to Use Cannabis to Relieve Anxiety
- Start small! Cannabinoids affect every person differently. Begin cannabinoid therapy, by consuming small amounts of cannabis.
- Try CBD alone. A high-quality CBD oil is often helpful in treating anxiety.
- Increase your dose gradually. The most common cause of cannabis-related anxiety is overconsumption. Try one or two hits and see how it affects you before you consume more.
- Start with high-CBD, low-THC and slowly work your way up to higher doses of THC. Patients must build a tolerance to THC.
- Consider microdosing. Microdosing is consuming very small amounts of cannabis regularly throughout the day. This can relieve the symptoms of an anxiety disorder without producing mind-altering side effects.
Best Methods of Cannabis Administration for Anxiety
Smoking or vaping is often the best method of cannabis administration for anxiety because consuming cannabis via inhalation is nearly instantaneous.
Is CBD Oil Good for Anxiety?
CBD alone is often enough to treat mild cases of anxiety. CBD can be smoked, vaped, eaten, etc. A high-quality CBD oil may be enough to help ease your anxiety. CBD oil can be ordered online. I recommend CWHemp or Elixinol. (Use caution when purchasing CBD products, unfortunately, there’s a lot of unregulated junk on the market.)
High-CBD, Low-THC Strains
More difficult cases may indicate a significant imbalance in the endocannabinoid system. This is often better addressed with whole plant medicine or cannabis that contains the entire cannabinoid profile plus terpenes. High-CBD, low-THC strains help ease anxiety in many patients.
High THC Strains
High-THC indicas can be sedating and are ideal for many anxiety patients. Still, for some patients, high-THC strains can increase anxiety or trigger panic attacks. People with anxiety should always begin with a low dose of THC and gradually increase it after they are familiar with the effects.
The effects of different cannabis strains vary from person to person. Cannabis medicine is very individualized.
Risks & Warnings for Cannabis Use
Cannabis can also interact with medications. If you are taking another anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication, you should be familiar with the side-effects of all medications. Marijuana can intensify the effects of some medications.
Best Strains of Cannabis for Anxiety
- Sour Diesel
- Grandaddy Purple
- Kush X
- OG Kush
- GSC (formerly known as Girl Scout Cookies)
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Cannabis can help relieve anxiety. Patients should remember that strains vary from person to person so individuals may need to try several strains before finding the ideal strain to treat their symptoms. New patients should consider starting with high-CBD strains and introduce THC slowly to avoid anxiety from over-consumption. Speak with your healthcare provider about adding medical marijuana to your treatment plan.