As a nurse, I am sometimes asked how I feel about marijuana and anxiety. I understand why it can be confusing.
Anxiety was only added to the list of qualifying conditions in 2019, just a little under 2 years ago.
The question of whether medical marijuana will cause anxiety or relieve it is an ongoing debate depending on who you are. One person may say it was the worst anxiety they’ve ever had and the next the exact opposite. So what’s the answer?
First, let’s understand exactly what we’re dealing with….
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an overwhelming and constant feeling of worry. It is your body’s way of responding to stress. We all have stress and everyone experiences anxiety, but if it lasts more than 6 months and interferes with daily life it can be considered a disorder.
Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways:
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of focus
- Chills and cold sweats
- Tingling or numbness
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Muscle tension
These and other symptoms can be found in many combinations depending on the person. The most important thing is to find help. Whether you find ways to cope through therapy or other alternative measures is up to you, but my guess is your mind is open to relief if you’re reading this and that’s the name of the game!
So let’s take it there….
How cannabis affects the body.
The science behind cannabis tells us that THC triggers a release of dopamine in your brain. This is what makes you feel “high”. It also alters the way your brain receives short-term memories, creating varying levels of forgetfulness. This natural medicine seems to be a bit paradoxical.
Two components in marijuana make up for this phenomena. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol,) and CBD (cannabidiol). CBD holds many different healing qualities. In the right combination, they can be the perfect remedy for tons of different ailments.
The only way to know if this medicine is right for you is to gather all the info.
So let’s look at the pros and the cons.
The benefits of medicinal marijuana:
- Chronic pain relief
- It can regulate and prevent diabetes
- Fights cancer
- Helps treat depression
- Reduces nausea and vomiting.
- Regulates seizures
- Cannabidiol (CBD) has been linked to helping heal broken bones, quickening the process and strengthening the bone as it heals.
- Helps with ADHD/ADD
- Marijuana can be used in the treatment of glaucoma.
- It is known to help calm symptoms of PTSD.
- Endocannabinoids in marijuana contain anti-inflammatories that fight the brain inflammation that leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Marijuana infused lotions have been known to help fight pains associated with arthritis.
- Scientific evidence suggests that it can lessen pain, muscle problems, and bladder issues in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
- The munchies. You will often find yourself with an increased appetite, although not all strains of marijuana will cause this particular side effect.
- Marijuana is known to relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- It can help to reduce tremors related to Parkinson’s Disease.
- It can help treat anxiety.
Medical marijuana has been linked as a healing power to all of these and more, but without dark there is no light.
Let’s look at the downside to marijuana:
- The infamous “cotton mouth”! Dry mouth can be easily relieved by chewing gum or eating candy and drinking water. Just wet your whistle!
- Short-term memory loss.
- Slowed reaction time.
- Red eyes.
- Increased heart rate.
- Some people experience anxiety when consuming marijuana.
- Patients who choose to smoke may develop a phlegmy cough.
- Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS)- a rare condition causing some marijuana users to experience severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Only to be cured by stopping consumption completely and permanently.
- “Couch lock”. The urge to be lazy.
There are other things we can knit pick but the real question still remains……
Does marijuana help anxiety or make it worse?
This is the million dollar question, but the answer just isn’t that simple.
We can always say moderation because it is a given. If you consume too much you’re likely to be uncomfortable causing yourself a certain degree of anxiety.
Going deeper than that, this is where THC and CBD come into play.
High levels of THC have been associated with elevated heart rates and racing thoughts. So if you aren’t a seasoned consumer, even a small dose can cause this. It is best to choose a strain with CBD levels to offset the THC. A professional at a legal dispensary will help you choose the right strain for your condition and tolerance.
A good rule of thumb is to always start low. You can always take more if you need to.
On the other hand, you can’t turn back the clock if you take too much. CBD has been known to calm this down so having a little on hand will never hurt, but better safe than sorry so take it slow.
For all of you pros out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about! AM I RIGHT?!
What does research say about marijuana and anxiety?
The numbers will always speak for themself, so let’s get into what we know.
In 2010, studies found that CBD oil triggers changes in blood flow to regions in the brain linked with feelings of anxiety.
Later research reviews stated this can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
A marijuana and anxiety survey taken in 2018 reveals that medical cannabis users reported a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress. Interestingly enough, females reported higher levels of effectiveness with marijuana and anxiety than men.
Higher levels of THC and CBD were also reported as being more effective.
What components of cannabis help anxiety and which ones cause it?
THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, binds to endocannabinoid receptors in various parts of your brain, including the amygdala.
Your amygdala helps regulate your response to fear and related emotions, like anxiety, stress, and paranoia.
CBD is a cannabinoid that doesn’t directly bind to endocannabinoid receptors and doesn’t seem to cause paranoia.
Having said this, not all marijuana is created equal. It is best to be educated on strains and what types of terpenes they have in them. Marijuana and anxiety should be treated delicately.
Is there a strain of marijuana that won’t heighten anxiety?
There are certain strains that will suit anxiety better than others. Terpenes play a big role in this.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants. Cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them and play a role in healing with an entourage effect as they interact with canibinnoids and other compounds within.
- Derived from the oil of citrus peels, such as lemon or oranges, limonene is known as one of the best terpenes for anxiety. Strains enhanced with limonene are known to relieve paranoia or restlessness.
- Strains containing caryophyllene, an anti-inflammatory, are known to be some of the most restful, calming strains out there.
- Myrcene can be found in marijuana as well as bay leaf, thyme, cardamom, lemon grass, and hops. It is used in the treatment of pain and inflammation. But this terpene is special. It interacts a little different with the THC naturally occurring within cannabis. It supercharges the effects of THC, leaving you with a much more effective and longer-lasting high. Myrcene powered strains are considered to be some of the most potent.
Will a pharmacist or doctor help me find the right medicine and dose?
A medical marijuana specialist and certifying doctor will be available to walk you through the certification process and answer any questions you have about medical marijuana and anxiety. The dispensary of your choice will be staffed with pharmacists and professionals that will help you choose the correct medicine based on your individual needs.
Every person is different so have fun exploring what works best for you!
Is marijuana safer in treating anxiety than Xanex?
Yes. The United States safety index classifies Xanex as a Schedule 4 and marijuana a Schedule 1, meaning Xanex should be safer than marijuana, but recent research shows different. In fact, benzodiazepines have been linked to a large amount of lethal overdose-related deaths.
Recent studies report decreased benzodiazepine use among patients who started medical cannabis therapy. Results show more than 45% of patients stopped using benzodiazepines completely within six months.
It was reported that marijuana therapy for anxiety provided a better overall sense of being.
How can I get medical marijuana for anxiety?
If you feel like medical marijuana may benefit your anxiety and you live in a participating state like Pennsylvania, help is available at every step.
Medical Marijuana Specialists are here for you 7 days a week for same day certifications as well as program and medicinal education within the Keystone State. We will guide you through the process. If you don’t have a current diagnosis, we can help with that too!
Please feel free to comment about marijuana and anxiety and share if you feel this information has been helpful on your journey to healing! We welcome your thoughts and experiences!
And don’t forget…..Every day is a good day to heal!