Cannabis Use for Anxiety and Stress
There are various studies in the past several years showing promise in the use of cannabis for anxiety and stress. Since not everyone reacts the same to cannabis, further research is still needed to provide conclusive evidence. Even surveys have mixed results regarding the use of cannabis for anxiety and depression. This article will share some promising results and general information about cannabis and its uses for anxiety and stress.
Notes About Cannabis, Anxiety, and Stress
To understand the studies, it’s first essential to understand some cannabis terminology concerning this article. Cannabis is a general term for the entirety of products for consumption derived from cannabis plants. There are two primary components in cannabis that affect the consumer, THC, and CBD. Often associated with the ‘high’ marijuana, THC is a psychoactive compound. The flip of that is CBD, which is often used as a therapeutic. For more about the differences between THC and CBD, click here.
According to current reports through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 18 percent of the United States population suffers from anxiety disorders. In separate surveys, at least 33% of respondents reporting more than normal levels of stress; however, this is likely a much higher percentage with the added stressors in everyone’s lives during 2020. Often, anxiety and stress result in diagnoses such as agoraphobia, social anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, sleep disruptions, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Cannabis Studies with Promising Results
The use of CBD has long been associated with helping relieve stress and anxiety. Studies with CBD as a tincture and pill form have resulted in a successful temporary relief with a sense of calmness, improved relaxation, and better sleep. Since 2015 several studies have consistently shown positive results concerning the use of CBD and relieving symptoms of anxiety-related disorders with clinical safety and without sedating effects. Long-term use and efficacy are still in need of additional formal studies.
In 2017, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago reported a small-scale study about the use of THC and stress. Three groups of participants were given one of three dosages of THC, took part in several stress-inducing activities, biometrics taken throughout, and self-reporting feelings about the test and feelings of stress. The results showed participants who received a low dose (7.5 milligrams) of THC reported lower stress levels and quicker stress recovery than the moderate dose (12.5 milligrams of THC) or placebo groups. Those in the moderate-dose group also reported a higher negative mood and rated psychosocial tasks as “threatening” or “challenging” with notable small increases in anxiety. Interestingly, there were no significant biometric differences to report, including blood pressure, cortisol levels, or heart rate.
Overall, these findings indicate that cannabis in the proper form and dosage can influence the level of stress and anxiety internally perceived, at least in short-term use. This is with CBD or THC use for temporary relief, with the best outcomes from smaller doses. There are no known proper long-term consumption findings that support extended use.
Currently, there are several universities involved in detailed research in cannabis. One such university with research efforts is Washington State University (WSU), a collaborative unit of over 70 researchers in the WSU system. Considered global leaders in cannabis research, policy, and outreach focused on improving health and well-being, public policy and safety, economics, and agricultural research.
Considering Potential Side Effects
Everyone reacts to cannabis consumption differently, including no effect at all. Unfortunately, some people have an opposite reaction to the anti-anxiety and anti-stress functions seen in the summaries above, where they experience worsening symptoms. Additionally, the adverse side effects should be considered before consuming cannabis for stress or anxiety. These unwelcome side effects can include increased heart rate or sweatiness, racing or looping thoughts, concentration or short-term memory issues, irritability or other mood changes, paranoia, hallucinations, and other psychosis symptoms, confusion, decreased motivation, and sleeping difficulties. Of course, if you are smoking or vaping cannabis, remember there is always a risk of lung irritation, breathing issues, and risk for certain cancers.
Tips on Safe Use of Cannabis for Anxiety and Stress
As with any drug, cannabis misuse can lead to addiction and dependence. Therefore, when considering cannabis to relieve stress and anxiety, it is recommended for temporary relief. Those new to cannabis may have better results going for CBD products at a low dose. If you take any prescription medication, herbal supplements, or vitamins, we highly recommend consulting a pharmacist or medical provider for potential interactions. Always purchase your cannabis from a dispensary. This will ensure the purchase is a proper dose, strain, and legitimate products. A budtender at the dispensary can also assist in selecting a product for your specific needs.
In addition to cannabis for relief of symptoms associated with anxiety and stress, consider other alternative approaches. This can include therapy, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and massage therapy.
As our knowledge gaps around medical uses of cannabis grow smaller, it will be interesting to see these indications transition into treatments and potions for those suffering from debilitating stress and anxiety disorders. To increase our understanding of the effects of cannabis, further studies need to be completed to fully confirm or reject these findings.
Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. (September 4, 2015).
Collaboration on Cannabis Policy, Research, and Outreach. (Accessed November 15, 2020). https://research.wsu.edu/cannabis/
Low-dose THC can relieve stress; more does just the opposite. (June 2, 2017) https://today.uic.edu/low-dose-thc-can-relieve-stress-more-does-just-the-opposite