Anxiety and Cannabis

key facts about cannabis & anxiety:

  • cannabis can reduce anxiety in many folks, and serve as stress relief
  • not all marijuana strains are suitable for reducing anxiety; sativa-type products especially tend to excite people and speed up the mind
  • if you feel anxious on cannabis, try products with CBD in them
  • cannabis is not for everyone, but for some people it's a reliable source of relief

anxiety and cannabis

Can cannabis help with anxiety?

Anxiety is a common human emotional experience in which a person might feel nervous, afraid, obsessive, or otherwise agitated about an upcoming event or uncertain outcome. All kinds of things might trigger anxiety, and there are all kinds of reasons a person might be experiencing anxiety. Some people who experience anxiety have found that cannabis helps them to exist in the world. Cannabis can be an ally in treating symptoms related to anxiety disorders, as well as simply easing stress or helping people to unwind after a challenging day.

Several studies have been done on mice, in which they are given CBD injections and then placed in stressful situations in which they must deal with feared enemies—specifically, the mice are put in cages with snakes and cats. Ethical concerns aside, the results showed that the mice who had received injections stayed calmer in these jacked-up scenarios. The CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets Journal published results from one of these studies in 2014, and reported that the mice treated with CBD demonstrated "significant and robust" levels of calm, while the control group showed classic panic-like behavior.

Can cannabis cause anxiety?

While it's true that some cannabis products help with anxiety, others may actually aggravate it. Sativa-type products tend to have higher levels of the cannabinoid THC, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects that can come with consuming bud, and along with that comes the potential for triggering sensations of anxiety and paranoia. If you're prone to anxiety or cautious about it, do some research to figure out whether a particular strain is more likely to speed up and intensify your thinking, or soften it and slow it down.

using cannabis to treat anxiety

Using CBD products is a good option for using cannabis to treat anxiety, especially if cannabis tends to make you anxious. Strains of bud that have higher CBD and lower THC content can be a good place to start if you want to smoke. CBD sometimes has a mitigating effect on the feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can be triggered by THC. Another option is to use a CBD concentrate. These products have the effect of calming you down without giving you that "stoned" feeling, and have been proven to reduce anxiety. A 2011 study of people with social anxiety disorder who were asked to speak in front of a large audience (almost as cruel as the mice with the snake!) found that, among those who took CBD compared to a control group who didn't, found that the people who took CBD experienced "significantly less anxiety" than the control group.

It also turns out that THC can have anti-anxiety effects if taken in micro-dosed servings. This strategy can be used to ease the feelings associated with anxiety, kind of like having one drink does for many people. A micro-dosed serving of cannabis is generally classified as between 1mg and 5mg. In a 2014 study, men with anxiety were given a low dose (4mg) of a synthetic cannabinoid for PTSD symptoms. The majority of participants reported "significant improvement" from their symptoms, which included insomnia, nightmares, and chronic pain.

If you're curious about microdosing, you might want to check out this article: My first time microdosing on cannabis.  

anxiety and cannabis

In general, trial and error is, for better or worse, kind of the best way to figure out how different cannabis products affect you. Each person has unique body chemistry that interacts with a range of specific chemicals in cannabis. So if you want to treat anxiety or reduce anxiety, go slow and see how you feel. For more guidance, check out our piece Reducing Anxiety with Marijuana: How To Pick The Best Strains.