Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America and over 21% of adults (42.5 million) are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
Thanks to the CBD movement and society’s overall acceptance with cannabis, the US has begun conducting studies again in how cannabis can help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware. However, anxiety disorders are something else entirely. They feel far from normal, and overtime can destroy a person’s life.
It may be caused by:
- Stress from work, school, or personal relationships
- Emotional trauma
- Financial stress
- Stress caused by a chronic or serious medical condition
- A major life event or performance
- A side effect from certain medications
- Consuming alcohol or other drugs
- Lack of oxygen
There has been an overall increase in anxiety and anxiety disorders over the last few decades. It could be due to economic and political stressors, or it could possibly be brought on through chemicals in our food and environment.
Whatever the cause, there is no denying its prevalence in society today.
Currently the most effective medicine for anxiety is prescription benzodiazepines in the form of Ativan, Valium and Klonopin. While those drugs have been proven helpful to many people, they come with a long list of serious side effects including:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cardiac arrest
- Psychotic episodes
- Growth Suppression
It is no wonder people are looking at cannabis as an alternative form of treatment for anxiety.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis is a term used to refer to a group of three plants with psychoactive properties known as Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis ruderalis. When the flower of these plants is harvested and dried you have weed or marijuana.
Cannabis is usually consumed for its relaxing and calming effects. However, it can also be prescribed to help with a range of medical conditions like chronic pain, glaucoma, poor appetite, and anxiety.
Two components of Cannabis are CBD and THC, and both have been used to treat anxiety.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for giving the high effect that most people think of when they think of cannabis or weed.
CBD is a cannabinoid that is not intoxicating and non-euphoric. It is most used medicinally to help reduce inflammation, pain, nausea, migraines, seizures, and anxiety.
You can find cannabis products that contain both CBD and THC separately or mixed.
How can cannabis help alleviate anxiety?
Cannabis in the form of CBD and Marijuana that has a low level of THC tends to have an overall calming effect when consumed. It can dull the symptoms of anxiety allowing the person the ability to function in their day to day lives.
You can consume cannabis in many ways through pre-filled oil vapes, edibles, beverages, smoking the flower or bud, topical creams, tinctures you place under the tongue, and Dabs that you inhale.
Inhaled methods which are through vapes and smoking offer immediate effects, but it does not last as long as edibles.
Ingestible methods which are edibles, tinctures, and capsules take a while to kick in but last longer than if you inhaled it. When ingesting edibles in the form of food be careful as it takes a while for the effects to start, causing a lot of people to overindulge and consume larger doses of THC then necessary which can lead to a high level of anxiety and paranoia. It is recommended when eating edibles to do so with small dose.
A few strains that are generally rated well for anxiety are: (all descriptions listed below come from Leafly.com)
- Harlequin – Harlequin’s cannabinoid profile is well-suited for anxiety fighters who do not mind gentle euphoria. Its most abundant terpene is myrcene, which is believed to have a relaxing effect and has been used throughout history as a sleep aid.
- ACDC – A CBD-dominant strain like ACDC can offer anxiety benefits without the buzz. Containing only trace levels of THC, ACDC uses the force of CBD and terpenes like myrcene to invoke a clear, calm state of mind. If you are new to cannabis and leery of feeling high, ACDC or a strain with a similar chemical profile is the ticket.
- Bubba Kush – This strain is known for its calming, blissful high that helps you sink deeply into your relaxation routine, whatever that may be. Bubba Kush brings a sense of coziness to mind and body for those accustomed to a strong THC high.
What is the correct dosing for anxiety?
Dosing guidelines for cannabis in any form varies depending on
- the reason you are consuming it
- how you want to consume it
- the THC and CBD levels of the product you choose.
It is recommended to start with products high in CBD. Mainly because it is best known for treating anxiety and will not get you high.
Start with 10mg and increase or decrease from there depending on how you feel. If you have a CBD vape pen or CBD rich flower you can puff on that until you start to feel your anxiety lifting.
If you want to add a little high into the mix look for products with relatively low levels of THC that have dosing guidelines on the back. Usually, edibles should contain no more than 5mg of THC to be beneficial for anxiety.
Anxiety is complicated and so is Cannabis. There are so many different types of anxiety along with different forms of cannabis that it will take some trial and error to find what works best for your symptoms.
Anxiety evolves and changes and so will the way you treat it.
Does Cannabis interact with anti-anxiety medication?
Very few interactions between SSRIs and NDRIs mixed with cannabis have been reported.
However, there has not been a lot of research conducted in this area, so it is best to use caution.
Based on other available studies we have seen that Cannabis could potentially amplify adverse side effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure when combined with:
- Sedatives (e.g., Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., imipramine/Tofranil, amitriptyline, doxepin, trimipramine/Surmontil)
- MAOIs (e.g., tranylcypromine/Parnate, phenelzine/Nardil, isocarboxazid/Marplan)
If you are thinking of using cannabis in any form to treat your anxiety it is best to talk to your doctor or mental health professional before doing so.