Thinking about using cannabis for anxiety? Medical cannabis may be an effective treatment option for certain individuals with anxiety. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of using cannabis to treat anxiety.
How Cannabis Helps Anxiety
When most people think of anxiety, they’re usually thinking of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the most common form of anxiety. Symptoms of GAD include irritability, chronic apprehension and a phobic-like avoidance of situations that could cause a panic attack.
However, cannabis use has proven in some studies to be a more targeted treatment for different types of anxiety including PTSD, OCD, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
anxiety and medical cannabis
There is evidence that cannabis has an effect on emotional regulation and can be used to help mediate symptoms for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So, why does medical cannabis help PTSD sufferers?
The main reason is because PTSD sufferers lack the endocannabinoid anandamide, the “pleasure” neurotransmitter thought to be responsible for the “runner’s high.” Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the phytocannabinoid that corresponds to anandamide.
There are also other cannabinoids – namely, cannabigerol (CBG) – that have significant anti-anxiety and antidepressive effects.
Interesting fact: PTSD is the only medical condition which qualifies patients in all states with an operational medical cannabis program.
Cutting-edge research published in 2021 demonstrates that cannabis may be beneficial in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In one study, inhaling cannabis reduced symptoms of compulsions and anxiety in the majority of patients.
However, the benefits of cannabis on OCD were short-term and involved high levels of CBD with a notable absence of THC. Another case study from 2020 confirmed the potential benefits of cannabis on OCD.
Limited research exists on cannabis and panic disorder. However, one clinical trial is underway to understand the effects of CBD oil on people who experience panic attacks.
The trial is enrolling 90 participants at the University of Texas at Austin. The results of the study could shed light on whether CBD oil is effective in the prevention and treatment of panic attacks.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may also experience relief through cannabis medicine. In one clinical study, CBD was found to reduce anxiety in individuals tasked with public speaking.
While studies conducted specifically on social anxiety disorder are scarce, the condition falls under the umbrella of qualifying conditions in many states’ medical cannabis programs.
Using Medical Cannabis for Anxiety
Carefully measured tinctures may be a good place to start to treat anxiety, the cannabinoids are absorbed sublingually for a faster effect. A drop of two of a cannabis tincture under the tongue can offer significant relief from anxiety for many users.
Smoking cannabis is another possible ingestion method for anxiety since the effects tend to wear off in a few hours. Therefore, if you’re having a negative experience with THC, the side effects will fade fairly quickly.
Perhaps the trickiest cannabis consumption method for people with anxiety is edibles. Cannabis-infused foods like brownies and other baked goods are startlingly potent. Edible effects can linger all day (or longer). Plus, THC edibles are known for being difficult to dose and especially problematic for people with anxiety due to their difficult to predict effects.
Best Strains for Anxiety
A strain with high THC and a good amount of CBD to “tone down” THC’s effects while still giving that euphoric effect may be ideal. For beginners (and even many experts), it is perhaps best to try a 1:1 THC:CBD strain, vaporizer, tincture, such as Cannatonic or Insa’s 1:1 Northern Lights.
Many also swear by Wedding Cake, a cross between Triangle Kush and Animal Mints. Indicas like GMO and Purple Punch are also popular.
Overly strong sativas should perhaps be given a miss, although Ecto Cooler has had its praises sung for its usefulness in battling social anxiety. This may be because there are enough relaxing terpenes like linalool to “smooth out” the overwhelming effects of THC.
Strains like Jealousy and Sundae Driver also tend to have terpenes like humulene and linalool, which boast anxiety-busting and relaxing effects. They can also combat some of the negative side effects of THC.
As for strains you may want to avoid when using cannabis for anxiety, anything high in limonene and pinene like Super Lemon Haze could be best given a miss, as these sativa strains are renowned for their “speedy”, heart-racing effects, which can induce anxiety in some.
However, some prefer those energetic sativas. Everyone has a different base line when it comes to cannabis, and certainly everyone has anxiety for different reasons. A sativa may not be the first thing most try when trying to combat anxiety, but don’t discount it entirely.
The most important point regarding dosing is to avoid only trying THC-exclusive cannabis products. CBD can be necessary to temper the stimulating effects of THC which for some can actually trigger anxiety.
Microdosing, or using very small amounts of cannabis, is one helpful dosing strategy. Starting with a low concentration of THC in equally small amounts can potentially help cannabis work effectively for anxiety.
A good rule of thumb whenever trying any cannabis product is to start low and go slow. Meaning to take the smallest amount possible, such as one puff or one 5mg sample of an edible, and wait for the effects to be fully felt. Finding the right dosage and routine may take a little time, but once you dial in what works for you it can make living with anxiety much easier.
Risks of Treating Anxiety Disorders with Cannabis
Even with careful dosing, there are still risks associated with using cannabis to treat anxiety disorders. The risks are especially high for people under age 25 and for those with little or no experience with cannabis.
One possibility is experiencing a “bad trip,” but you can reduce this risk by forgoing cannabis edibles in favor of other methods, or by using products very high in CBDa.
CBD for Anxiety
CBD has been hailed as a safe treatment with benefits that go beyond the treatment of anxiety. Pain and inflammation are two notable conditions that CBD has been successful in treating. CBD may even help combat addictions to heroin and tobacco, which in turn could help decrease anxiety levels.
However, even CBD may carry certain warnings. If you are using blood thinners, CBD may pose a threat of interaction. CBD may also interact with other drugs, including those used to treat seizures, thyroid conditions and heart conditions.
If you’re not using any potentially conflicting medications, CBD presents few side effects. Furthermore, the side effects of CBD tend to be mild and include dry mouth, drowsiness and diarrhea.
Other Methods for Treating Anxiety
Cannabis may be a supplemental treatment for some anxiety sufferers, but medical professionals usually do not recommend the plant as the only course of action. Rather, a combination of treatment options can work best.
Counseling sessions with a qualified psychotherapist have helped countless individuals conquer or temper their anxiety. In tandem with doctor-prescribed cannabis, psychotherapy may be even more effective at battling anxiety disorders.
Doctors prescribe numerous anti-anxiety medications to patients. The brand names Xanax, Valium and Klonopin are likely familiar to anyone who has ever taken medication for anxiety.
The downside of prescription medications is that they come with a host of potential side effects, some severe. Certain anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax, even present the risk for addiction and fatal overdose. The benefit of cannabis in contrast to such medications is that a fatal overdose has never been verified.
Natural modifications to lifestyle are perhaps the easiest and safest way to treat anxiety. Eating a well-balanced diet including large portions of fruits and vegetables has shown to improve mental health in adults.
Eliminating alcohol and caffeine is another successful strategy for many anxiety sufferers. Finally, fresh air, exercise, and mindful practices like yoga offer relief from anxiety and overall health enhancement.
Cannabis for Anxiety: The Bottom Line
Research and anecdotal evidence is mixed when it comes to using cannabis for anxiety. One primary concern is that any amount of THC could worsen anxiety symptoms in certain individuals. CBD isolate, therefore, may be a more reliable alternative to full-spectrum cannabis to treat anxiety.
Best Insa Products for Anxiety
- 2:1 or 1:1 Tincture
- 2:1 Drops or 1:1 Drops
- 1:1 Northern Lights Vaporizer
- Purple Punch Flower
- Wedding Cake Flower
Pop into an Insa store or call us 7 days a week from 7am-11pm EST at 877-500-INSA to see what may work for your specific needs.