You may have heard a story about (or experienced it yourself) severe paranoia after smoking weed. This is a common side effect of getting high for many. Interestingly, however, there are just as many stories about people using cannabis to manage their anxiety disorder symptoms. In fact, studies have shown that marijuana can help people with social anxiety and PTSD. This paradox does not seem to make much sense, but there are many different factors that go into your cannabis experience which impact how much anxiety you experience, such as the specific strain as well as your personal tolerance and pre-existing conditions. In this blog, we will go over the different ways cannabis can either ease or aggravate anxiety symptoms.
What is Anxiety?
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It is a feeling of worry that usually precedes an event or certain situation. It serves its purpose at times; it can warn you to a dangerous situation, or motivate you to work hard on an upcoming deadline.
However, anxiety disorders are different. People with anxiety disorders are almost always worried, whether about real or perceived threats, and it impacts their ability to function on a daily basis. There are a variety of mental health disorders that fall under the umbrella term “anxiety,” including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, and panic disorder. Anxiety disorders are incredibly common, affecting roughly one-third of the population.
Does Marijuana Help Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders managed with medical marijuana. More and more research indicates that cannabis could be an effective treatment for anxiety, and there is a long history of people using it as an effective treatment. The first recorded incident of someone using cannabis for anxiety was in 1563, when Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese doctor, wrote that marijuana relieved “all worries and care” for anxiety sufferers. This description rings true for many people who have used weed for anxiety relief, as its effect can be described as calming and relaxing, one of the main benefits in the eyes of many cannabis users.
Beyond the anecdotal, there is also qualitative research that supports the use of cannabis for anxiety. In 2014, Vanderbilt University conducted a study on the impact on smoking marijuana on endocannabinoids, naturally found chemicals in the brain. Research suggests that decreased endocannabinoids could be one cause of anxiety disorders. The study found that smoking marijuana increased the endocannabinoids in the brain. This suggests that marijuana could be an effective alternative to prescription anxiety meds.
This idea is also supported by a Canadian study that found that after being prescribed medical marijuana for anxiety, 40 percent of participants were able to stop using benzodiazepines within 90 days. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety and carry a high risk of dependency and abuse.
There is also research that indicates that marijuana may help those who suffer from PTSD. Marijuana has a direct impact on memory, and it is believed that it may be able to help sufferers forget negative memories.
Does Marijuana Cause Anxiety?
All this research and anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. However, this cannot discount the experience of paranoia that many cannabis users report, particularly after large doses.
It seems that paranoia or short-term anxiety can come from smoking marijuana in certain situations. Beginner smokers are more likely to experience anxiety after consuming cannabis, for example, likely because it is new and they aren’t sure what to expect. Additionally, the environment can have a huge impact on your cannabis experience. If you are in a stressful or strange environment, it is much more likely that you will be anxious, and if some cases, this has even led to anxiety or panic attacks. It’s also possible for anxiety to occur after the abrupt interruption of long-term marijuana use (going through cannabis withdrawal).
There are many people who have chosen to stop using marijuana because of they feel anxious or paranoid when they use it. However, there is no research to indicate that cannabis is a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder. One 2009 review of 30 cannabis use studies found that there is a small correlation between consuming marijuana and anxiety; specifically, that people who have anxiety disorders are more likely to use marijuana. Another study suggests that cannabis is a “minor risk factor” in symptoms of anxiety. More research needs to be conducted in order to find a clearer relationship between anxiety and marijuana.
CBD and THC
As we discussed in a previous blog, the two main chemical compounds found in marijuana are THC and CBD, and these two cannabinoids have different effects. In general, CBD is more likely to reduce anxiety, while THC is more likely to increase anxiety. While the psychoactive effects of THC help some to distract from their worried thoughts, others feel that it aggravates their worries further.
When it comes to strains to smoke for anxiety, it’s important to find the right balance of CBD and THC. If you typically experience paranoia or anxiety when you consume marijuana, opting for a strain that is more CBD-heavy is better than strains with high levels of THC. If you are strictly looking for pain or anxiety disorder, you may try a CBD blunt out for size.
Beyond the specific strain, how anxious marijuana makes you can be contributed to your own individual tolerance, the dose, and the environment in which you consume it.
As stated above, it is more common for new cannabis users to experience anxiety. Over time, as you use marijuana more frequently, you develop a tolerance, meaning you need more in order to feel the same impact as before. As you smoke more frequently and become familiar with the feeling of being high, it’s typical for the anxiety to be less frequent.
Tolerance aside, the general rule is, the more marijuana consumed, the more intense the high. Even long-time cannabis users can feel anxiety after taking an exceptionally large dose. If you are new to cannabis or are concerned with its impact on your anxiety, it’s best to play it safe and start out with a smaller dose. Remember, you can always take more if needed, but the only way to become less high is over time.
You can’t always predict how cannabis will affect you, even if you are a seasoned consumer. This is especially true if you are in an unfamiliar or stressful environment. The likelihood you will experience anxiety is much higher if you are in an uncomfortable situation, so make sure to only consume cannabis in scenarios where you can feel at ease.
Are Indicas or Sativas Better for Anxiety?
Generally, indicas are better for anxiety treatment. Sativas tend to be more energizing, which for an anxious person, can lead to racing thoughts and jitteriness. In contrast, indicas promote relaxation in the body and mind. If you are concerned about anxiety, opt for an indica with higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC.
How to Reduce Anxiety From Cannabis
If you have already consumed cannabis and are experiencing anxiety, check out our previous blog about dealing with a too-intense high. Here are some additional, anxiety-specific tips to help you in the event of weed-induced paranoia.
- Always start with a lower dose. Remember: you can smoke more later, but you can’t un-smoke what you already have consumed.
- Pick your strain strategically. As stated above, high-CBD indicas tend to be better for people with anxiety.
- Try passionflower. Passionflower is often used for relaxation in the form of tea or essential oils and can help decrease anxiety. Try sipping on some passionflower tea or smell passionflower extract to promote relaxation.
- Practice meditation. You can train your mind to be less anxious through meditation. Try a strategy such as putting all your worries into a box to teach your brain to feel less anxious when you’re high.
Regardless of whether you are inclined towards anxiety or are as cool as a cucumber when you smoke, it’s important to choose the right strain, dose, and environment to have the best experience possible. When you are looking for our marijuana blunts at your local dispensary, be sure to talk to your budtender to help you have to the best experience possible. Shop D8 Blunts at a location near you!