Panic attacks. Loss of breath. Overwhelming feelings of nervousness and paranoia. Anxiety is one of the most common and consuming mental-health conditions. How can cannabis put our minds at ease?
We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.
Everyone will feel the burden of anxiety at some point in their life. From obsessive-compulsive behaviour, paranoia, and insomnia; anxiety can be consuming and crippling.
Anxiety is often treated with a combination of psychological counselling and medication such as anti-depressants and sleeping pills. However, while medications can help us feel more relaxed, they also put us at risk of developing an increased tolerance, dependency and addiction. They can also cause a range of side-effects such as nausea, weight gain, dizzy spells, and agitation.
Since anxiety is predominantly dependent on our brain chemistry and dopamine levels, cannabis can be an effective treatment to counteract those nasty feelings of panic for some people. This is done through the cannabinoids found within the cannabis plant. These cannabinoids work exclusively with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help promote feelings of calm and increase our dopamine levels by interacting with our amygdala (which is responsible for emotional regulation).
Does CBD help with anxiety?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound within the cannabis plant that has developed a solid reputation for its healing and therapeutic qualities. CBD has been known to help with chronic and muscle pain, inflammation and encourages restful sleep.
As a bonus, CBD is commonly derived from hemp, meaning that you get all the benefits without the high, so you can still be able to remain focused and alert.
The beauty of CBD is how it interacts with the body. Our ECS is responsible for making sure that functions like our eating and sleeping habits, mood regulation and our ability to process pain are balanced. How these are regulated is the responsibility of our CB1 and CB2 receptors. When these receptors are influenced by cannabinoids like CBD, it can result in pain-relief, better sleep, and overall wellness.
What does the science say?
The scientific evidence supporting CBD for anxiety treatment is mixed. Anecdotally, CBD has proven to be continuing success with aiding women's health and athletes' injuries, which has prompted the compound to boom in the nutraceutical market. However, there is some research that suggests that CBD can sometimes exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
A 2019 study examined the effects of CBD in anxiety sufferers over three months. Researchers found that seventy-eight percent of sufferers reported feeling less anxious after the first month. Interestingly, a small demographic reported feeling worse after the first month (we'll explain why this may be the case in a moment).
It's important to note, however, that CBD administration and dosage can affect people in different ways and understanding how CBD can be utilized properly is paramount in its effect as a treatment option.
Can cannabis make you more anxious?
It's complicated: yes and no.
There is a small demographic of people that are psychologically vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. This starts and ends with our brain chemistry.
As previously mentioned, cannabis reacts with our ECS through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are responsible for interacting (and interfering) with how we process pain and emotion through our dopamine levels.
Individuals that already have manic tendencies (which can range from mild to severe) can experience a heightened level of emotion. Essentially, this counteracts the positive results that cannabis induces.
This means, for example, if an individual has an imbalance in their brain chemistry (remember, the ECS is all about balance), then they're likely to already have increased feelings of dopamine in their system. When you introduce cannabis into the body via oils, tinctures, or inhalation these levels are sent into overdrive, resulting in an increased feeling of anxiety and in some cases, severe paranoia.
There is, of course, a spectrum of how mild or severe an individual's reaction to cannabis can be. This is dictated by a range of psychological, environmental and genetic factors. This means that there's a small group of people that cannabis doesn't react well with.
Furthermore, the issue of what kind of cannabis you administer also becomes paramount to its effect. In order to mitigate negative effects from cannabis use, it is important to know the effects that weed has on you before diving into a handful of pot brownies. Go slow!
Playing the strain game
Being informed on the different kinds of cannabis is a vital part of treating anxiety safely and effectively. This begins with knowing what strains are best for lowering stress levels and states of panic.
Firstly, we must look at the difference between Indica and Sativa cannabis. In a nutshell, Indica cannabis is associated with a more mellow, calming feeling. Sativa, on the other hand, is associated with a more energized, lighter feeling. This is important to remember – you don't want a strain that counteracts your goal.
Naturally, with anxiety sufferers, an Indica or hybrid (a combination of the two) cannabis plant is better suited for treatment.
Secondly, it's okay to have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your strain. There are some strains with upwards of sixteen percent THC and will still work wonders in reducing feelings of anxiety. If you want to avoid the high, however, or are new to cannabis, then a CBD dominant strain is perhaps a better option.
When it comes to strains there are a few options that are great for relieving anxiety:
ACDC (hybrid) and Remedy (Indica dominant) strains are full of CBD goodness making it great for lowering your stress and anxiety levels while increasing feelings of relaxation. They're also great for pain and inflammation without the hassle of a high.
Purple Urkle (Indica dominant) contains sixteen percent THC which makes this deeply mellow strain great for feeling relaxed and stress-free. It's also a heavenly sleeping aid and can help with those anxiety-driven sleepless nights.
Though again, all of this is subjective and dependent on how you respond to specific strains. You may find yourself preferring high-THC strains to chill you out, or you may like a balance of CBD and THC – it's all personal preference.
Anxiety can cripple the best of us, at any time, for any reason. Though there are many potential cures to anxiety, one of which may be cannabis. While scientific research plays catch-up with clinical evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis; anecdotally, many people do report the plant as a great resource for combating anxiety and other ailments.
So if you're looking for something to calm the nerves, help you feel relaxed, and offer a little mindful peace, marijuana might just do the trick.
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