Anxiety is a state that is no stranger to the average person living in this fast paced time. The demands of the modern are many. Between work, traffic, relationships, politics and the like, anxiety is expected. For many who use cannabis, anxiety is the number one state they are trying to avoid. Yet ironically, it is a state easily achieved through the consumption of cannabis as well. So how does this work? What is the tipping point that takes a person from a comfortable, relaxed state into paranoia and anxiety? There are a couple of factors that are important.
Balancing THC and CBD
The first thing to note when contemplating using marijuana for anxiety is that cannabis has 2 specific compounds for which the plant is most commonly used. THC is the compound in cannabis that can produce the sense of euphoria. It is the psychoactive compound that makes you high. CBD on the other hand produces more of a body high. It is not a psychoactive compound but has the ability to simply relax the body and mind. It is known to act on the serotonin receptors and may even regenerate brain cells that are lost due to chronic depression or anxiety. It does not necessarily produce the euphoria produced by the THC that many enjoy from cannabis consumption but it will relax the entire body and mind. A combination of these 2 compounds for the purposes of treating anxiety is ideal.
The Endocannabinoid System
A 2014 study from Vanderbilt University found that the effects of cannabis on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a huge role in its ability to treat anxiety. The ECS is a system that is made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors that are found in the brain and organs throughout the body. These receptors are triggered by naturally occurring endocannabinoids created in the body and regulate homeostasis. This means they affect sleep, mood, anxiety, blood pressure, blood sugar, and just about every function of the body and the nervous system. Researchers believe that chronic stress and aging can reduce the amount of naturally occurring endocannabinoids the body produces. THC and CBD both activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, replenishing the body’s endocannabinoids and thereby reducing anxiety while having a beneficial effect on the entire body.
Using Marijuana for Anxiety Instead of Benzodiazepines
In Canada, Canabo Medical Corp also conducted a study on the effects of marijuana for anxiety. In Canada, approximately 10 percent of the population are using prescription benzodiazepines daily, which are highly addictive anti-anxiety medication. Side effects include fatigue, dizziness, impaired memory and loss of concentration. They may ultimately also lead to accidental overdose and death over long term use. “We wanted to take a close look at the likelihood of continued benzodiazepine usage after commencing medical cannabis treatments and to be perfectly honest, the results are extremely promising,” said Dr. Neil Smith, Executive Chairman of Canabo. “When conducting this type of research, experts are typically encouraged by an efficacy rate in the neighborhood of 10 percent. To see 45 percent effectiveness demonstrates that the medical cannabis industry is at a real watershed moment.” Within 90 days. 40 percent of the participants were able to stop using benzodiazepines.
Using Cannabis for Specific Anxiety Disorders
Research indicates that cannabis may also be effective at treating a number of anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), paranoia, panic disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). While much more thorough research is needed on the subject, many sufferers of PTSD have reported experiencing relief from the disorder when using cannabis. In fact, many have been able to cease the use of dangerous prescription opioids by using cannabis to treat the disorder.
When Marijuana Use Causes Anxiety
There is clear evidence that indicates it is beneficial to use marijuana for anxiety, although there is still a line that can be crossed when using the plant that could increase anxiety. The latest research indicates that this may be all a matter of dosage. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago and published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, evaluated the effects of THC on anxiety levels in an attempt to understand how the compound affected anxiety levels.
Measuring the Effects of Marijuana on Anxiety
42 subjects between the age of 18 and 40 who, although not daily consumers, had all used cannabis before, were split into 3 groups. One group was given 7.5 milligrams of THC, another was given 12.5 milligrams and a third group were given a placebo. Participants were then asked to complete a series of stressful tasks. In the first visit they were asked to complete a job interview where they were being videotaped. They were given 5-digit numbers and asked to subtract 13 from the total. The next time they were required to talk about a favorite book or film and then play solitaire.
Favorable Results for Low THC Dosages
Those who were given the low dose of THC were the most relaxed of the 3 groups. Their stress levels returned to normal the fastest. Those who were given the highest dose reported finding the tasks challenging, stressful and threatening. The low THC group clearly experienced the least amount of anxiety, indicating that it was effective to use the THC compound found in marijuana for anxiety in low doses.
While CBD is known to produce a relaxed state without the euphoria, the small amount of THC was also able to be effective and it would seem that a CBD dominant plant mixed with a tiny bit of THC could act as an effective combination. At any rate, the low dose seems critical in using marijuana for anxiety without inducing any unwanted negative effects. The low dose is considered to be approximately 18 percent of an average joint, or just a few puffs of a joint or bowl. The method of delivery is an important factor, however, as eating marijuana may increase its effects. Tolerance is also a factor as those who are used to consuming high doses may need to consume a little more than a few puffs to achieve the same desired effects. In any case, less is more when it comes to using marijuana for anxiety. While much more research is needed, it appears that when used in this way, the plant is a highly effective treatment for anxiety.