Cannabis and Anxiety: Does it Help?

Mind churning 90 mph? Unable to sleep with worry? Concerns about your kids? Nervous about a big presentation? Constantly reliving the all to the common “Did I pay that bill yet” stress? Do you feel like Eminem: “palms are sweaty,knees weak, arms are heavy… vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti…?”

We all experience stress when things in life seem to be piling onto our shoulders. Being anxious from time to time is one thing, in fact that’s normal, however, those that experience these types of feelings frequently may become debilitated in their day to day lives and are likely suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.

Stress and anxiety, although frequently experienced together, are very different.  Patients with anxiety disorders frequently feel a sense of panic and unsettledness over situations not usually seen as “stressful” to the typical person. There are several different flavors of anxiety disorders, and I will highlight a few for you here:

  • Panic disorder where individuals experience a sense of doom often accompanied by chest pain, sweating, heart racing, and that feeling of a lump in your throat. These symptoms may occur at random.
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a condition triggered by a terrifying/traumatic event, and commonly will cause nightmares and flashbacks.
  • Generalized Anxiety disorder can be characterized by excessive worry over everyday events.
  • Phobia disorders are characterized by strict avoidance of common activities like taking a walk or attending an event as the fear of the unknown consumes you. Those with social phobias are said to have
  • Social Anxiety disorder. Social Anxiety disorder often convinces your mind that others may taunt you and be judgmentaltowards you therefore causing you to avoid all social situations no matter how large or small in scale.

Over the years treatment for Anxiety disorder has included medications to alter brain chemistry including antidepressants and benzodiazepines that often time have unwanted side effects; and blood pressure medications such as beta blockers to help control heart rate and nervous system response to stress. Traditional treatments frequently include talk therapy in addition to medication management.

We all know this is a cannabis blog, so lets get down to the nitty gritty. What we REALLY want to know …Is Cannabis an effective naturopathic treatment? 

        Cannabis use in the treatment of anxiety disorders is actually a controversial topic. The euphoric and calming sensation cannabis provides can help an anxious person relax. There are a multitude of compounds in cannabis that can induce a sense of calm. It is proposed that the compound cannabidiol (CBD) is effective in treating anxiety (decreases stress by activating CB receptors which modulate the serotonin brain response).           

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at low doses offers promise to help amplify the calming effect of cannabis, but at higher doses may actually induce or worsen anxiety. Several studies show that certain cultivars of cannabis can cause acute anxiety, paranoid thoughts and quite possibly lead to more panic attacks. It seems those cultivars with a higher CBD to THC ratio tend to be the best option for controlling anxiety.

There is also another group of compounds within the cannabis plant called terpenes. Terpenes are chemicals that help protect the plant from insects, harsh weather, and environmental threats. These compounds are found commonly in other plants as well (lavender, mango, black pepper). Terpenes also commonly provide the aroma of the raw flower. Each cannabis plant has its own terpene profile. Some terpenes help with providing a sense of calm, others help to clear the mind, while others are more involved with pain control. With the right cultivar and dosage, Medical cannabis can provide an effective, safe, natural treatment for anxiety.

As always, it’s essential to consult with your physician or MMJ doc before beginning any cannabis regimen as personalized monitored care provides the highest chance for successful therapy.

* This blog in no way is intended to offer personalized medical advice. This blog is intended to introduce readers to the potential benefits of medical cannabis. Consult your physician prior to initiating any therapies for the aforementioned conditions as cannabis, like other medications, is not appropriate for all patients.*

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