Cannabis is going through a renaissance. People across the globe are gaining renewed interest in the plant and the numerous benefits it has to offer.
Cannabis research has indicated that the plant contains potent therapeutic properties that make it an ideal choice in dealing with various conditions, such as anxiety, depression, pain, stress, insomnia, and appetite loss.
This piece explores the relationship between cannabis and anxiety and how the plant’s compounds can help manage the prevalent condition.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that is characterised by constant feelings of fear, apprehension, and worry. These feelings can be triggered by everyday situations such as going out in public, meeting new people, going to school, impending diagnosis, and many other situations. This emotion can be manifested physically via increased heart rate, sweating, shaking or trembling, nausea, vomiting, full-body weakness, and headaches.
The five major types of anxiety disorders include
Social anxiety disorder/ social phobia: Individuals with this disorder are constantly self-conscious in social settings. The condition can range from mild to chronic.
Generalized anxiety disorder: extreme apprehension, fear, and worry without triggers.
Post-traumatic stress disorder: develops after an individual goes through a traumatic event like an accident, losing a loved one, being in a warzone area, etc.
Panic disorder: people experiencing this type of disorder experience episodes of great fear. The attacks are regular, unexpected, and manifest physically through heart palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: involves performing repetitive actions/behaviour like cleaning, washing, or arranging items to keep recurring unwanted thoughts away.
How prevalent is anxiety across the globe?
According to the Global Burden Disease study conducted in 2017, 284,000,000 people suffer from anxiety-related disorders. Due to the pandemic, the number has risen considerably to 374,000,000 people. This is a crisis that needs to be dealt with.
Available treatments for anxiety include pharmaceutical drugs (associated with a myriad of side effects) and counselling.
Cannabis presents a natural and effective alternative to dealing with various types of anxiety.
How does cannabis help with anxiety?
Cannabis comprises over 500 compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, oils, and many more. The most researched chemical compounds are cannabinoids and terpenes. THC and CBD are the most abundant cannabinoids in marijuana. Others include CBG, THCA, CBDA, CBN, and CBNA. These cannabinoids have been known to interact with the human Endocannabinoid System on various levels to bring about homeostasis (normal body functioning).
The ECS is a cell signalling system that consists of various enzymes, endocannabinoids, and receptors. These components work synergically to ensure that different components of the body (cardiovascular system, immune system, digestive system, nervous system, etc.) function seamlessly. CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid receptors to foster stabilized moods, emotions, and feelings.
Amygdala is the part of the brain that controls an individual’s emotions, motivation, and emotional behaviours. It is responsible for responding to actual or perceived danger by initiating a fight or flight response. In its mission to ensure normal body functioning, the ECS keeps the amygdala inert to prevent emotions like fear, apprehension, and worry from presenting themselves unnecessarily. CBD works with the ECS to ensure Amygdala remains inactive, thus keeping anxiety-related conditions at bay.
Can cannabis help? Anecdotal evidence
The media (tv, newspaper, radio, billboard advertisements, social platforms) is filled with individuals swearing by the effectiveness of cannabis in dealing with anxiety. Others claim that it made the symptoms worse. So, who is right and who is not?
CBD is a natural anxiolytic compound that has been proven to deal with different forms of anxiety.
On the other hand, THC is a double sword of some sort; in lower doses, it can effectively deal with anxiety, but high doses can lead to intense anxiety, paranoia, and headaches. This is especially true for new consumers and anyone with a low tolerance for THC.
What does the scientific evidence say?
According to a 2018 study, 300mg of CBD was administered to patients with social anxiety involving the fear of public speaking. Ninety minutes after taking the drug, the participants were subjected to a simulated public speaking exercise. The dose proved effective as the speakers delivered their speech with significantly reduced anxiety levels. Patients who received lower doses (150mg) and higher doses (600mg) attained less impressive results. This indicates that moderate doses of CBD are effective in combating social anxiety.
According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), cannabidiol, aka CBD, can help with Generalised Anxiety Disorder. CBD consumption helped reduce physiological and behavioural anxiety indicators like sweating, increased heart rate, and nausea.
Multiple studies have indicated that CBD works with the ECS to relieve PTSD symptoms in patients who have undergone traumatic episodes or events. CBD helped by fighting off negative thoughts and repetitive nightmares.
How to use cannabis for anxiety
First, before starting on any alternative treatment plan, it is advisable to seek a physician’s opinion. From a medical perspective, the doctor is best-suited to advise on whether cannabis consumption is safe for your health condition or not. Additionally, they might help you identify the ideal dose to curb the anxiety. Cannabis can interact with certain medications, so informing your physician saves you from experiencing the consequences of drug interactions.
As demonstrated above, CBD is a better alternative to managing anxiety compared to THC (especially in high doses). Consequently, it is best to try strains/products with higher CBD content and equal or lower THC content.
Always start with the lowest dose possible. While it is nearly impossible to overdose on cannabis, overconsumption has several undesirable side effects.
Buy your cannabis products from a licensed store or dispensary. This makes it easy to purchase products suited to your needs as a consumer and patient.
Additionally, you are guaranteed quality-tested products.