Does cannabis help with anxiety? That’s a question we hear a great deal at our family of dispensaries, and it’s one we take very seriously. In today’s pressurized and fast-paced world, anxiety is an increasingly common condition. In fact, clinicians believe that more than 30% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. And while some of them seek pharmaceutical or other interventions, a growing number are wondering if using cannabis for anxiety is a sustainable solution.
As it turns out, the answer is: It’s complicated. Whether or not marijuana and anxiety have a positive relationship turns out to be a very personal and individual question. While many people find that cannabis improves their peace of mind and quality of life, others find that relying on it can actually stoke feelings of anxiety or even paranoia.
Does reading this inspire…well, anxiety? Relax. We’re here to help. In today’s post, we’ll share everything we know about the intersection of marijuana and anxiety, including specific tips on how to avoid anxiety when using cannabis (as well as getting the very most for your cannabis dollar).
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Using Cannabis for Anxiety: An Introduction
When approaching a question like “does cannabis help with anxiety,” it’s important to first understand how cannabis interfaces with the body. The therapeutic powers of the cannabis plant primarily come from the compounds known as cannabinoids. A family encompassing more than one hundred natural chemicals, the cannabinoids include two you’ve most likely heard of: THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, short for cannabidiol. We’ll focus on those two major cannabinoids today. While research is uncovering a host of benefits associated with other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG, and others still, most of them are only found in trace amounts in the cannabis plant.
Without much doubt, THC is the major “active ingredient” in cannabis. The cannabinoid most responsible for the plant’s intoxicating “high,” THC imparts a number of other beneficial effects, as we’ll discuss in a moment. Most of the cannabis products you’ll find on dispensary shelves are rich in THC. However, here at Mission Dispensaries we make sure to stock CBD-dominant strains in addition to many other kinds of cannabis high-CBD products such as oils, edibles, and more. Unlike THC, CBD imparts at most a gentle energetic “buzz” that’s not generally considered intoxicating.
Both these cannabinoids interface with the body through something known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). A critical bodily network, the ECS helps regulate such functions as mood, immune function, sleep, and many other processes. And as such, the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant are truly “speaking the same language” as our body’s regulatory system. That’s one hint as to why the effects of cannabis can be so intense, both in positive and potentially negative senses. Here’s why.
How Cannabis May Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms: CBD vs THC
Everyone’s physiology is a bit different, and everyone reacts to cannabis in slightly different ways. While a large and growing body of evidence suggests that CBD is generally well-tolerated, the ways we react to THC can be very different. Let’s begin with CBD.
One review of animal-model studies found evidence that CBD exerted both anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant-like effects. Beyond this, CBD’s potential anti-anxiety benefits extend to humans as well. One 2011 study measured the effects of different doses of CBD on people struggling with social anxiety. Interestingly, the experiment simulated the anxiety around public speaking, a scenario that often triggers symptoms of anxiety in most people.
Researchers found that a single large dose of CBD was enough to significantly reduce anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance. Furthermore, a large-scale study from 2019 found that CBD helped reduce anxiety and improve sleep in a majority of test subjects. This builds upon the finding that CBD may have an important role to play in helping us find deeper, more restorative rest.
If you’re interested in using medical cannabis for anxiety, a pure CBD or CBD-dominant strain or product might be the first thing on your list when visiting a dispensary.
THC for Anxiety: A Complicated Relationship
While CBD may potentially reduce anxiety, things are a bit murkier when it comes to THC. The intoxicating cannabinoid most responsible for producing the mind-altering, euphoric, and uplifting effects of cannabis, THC is controversial. On top of being “the fun one” in the cannabinoid family, THC has been shown to have serious therapeutic potential when it comes to conditions such as pain, inflammation, nausea, insomnia, and possibly even anxiety.
But when it comes to using THC for anxiety, careful dosage is extremely important. In general, high levels of THC are known to actually produce anxious feelings. What’s more, taking high doses of THC on a regular basis is also believed to potentially trigger lasting anxiety symptoms.
One 2017 study found that while larger doses of THC can trigger anxious feelings, low doses may actually provide relief from anxiety. A dose of 7.5 mg of THC seemed to lower self-reported distress, while a dose of 12.5 mg increased negative mood.
This is something to be aware of in all your cannabis use. As a growing body of evidence suggests, the majority of people actually derive greater benefit from lower doses of cannabinoids. If you’re looking to fight pain and inflammation, reduce anxiety and stress, or find deeper, more restorative sleep, you’ll generally get better results (and stretch your cannabis budget further) by using less. You may even want to investigate the practice of microdosing, which involves the use of barely perceptible doses of cannabinoids to reap beneficial effects without psychoactivity. You can read more about this in our recent blog on cannabis edibles dosages.
Apart from dosage, it’s also important to be mindful of the specific strain of cannabis that you are ingesting. Certain strains are known to be more stimulating and energizing, while others are known for being deeply relaxing and sedating.
We’ve written about sativa and indica before, the two major classifications when it comes to categorizing strains of cannabis. Sativa or sativa-leaning strains tend to be more energizing, and possibly more likely to cause anxiety. By contrast, indica or indica-dominant strains tend to be more relaxing, and are potentially more likely to keep anxiety at bay. Additionally, your local budtender (or even an online strain directory such as Leafly or Allbud) can be a priceless resource for determining which strains are best to use and which to avoid when using cannabis for anxiety.
Cannabis for Anxiety: Wrapping Up
Using cannabis for anxiety may seem tempting, but it’s important to know what you’re doing (and what to expect). Using too much of the wrong kind of cannabis (say, a strong sativa strain) can actually make things worse. That’s one reason we always recommend you “start low and go slow.” You can always have more cannabis, but you can’t have less. While ingesting too much cannabis is rarely dangerous, it can be unpleasant. And that’s one thing we very much want to help you avoid!
If you’re looking to help tame the symptoms of anxiety or other chronic conditions with cannabis, we’re here to help. With medical and recreational dispensaries spanning Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois, start by choosing the dispensary closest to you and see what products—such as high-CBD strains or products—might best suit your needs.
Better yet, visit any of our family of dispensaries and ask your friendly budtender for more information on marijuana for anxiety (or any other cannabis-related topics). We hope to see you soon!