Marijuana and Anxiety: A Guide

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Marijuana may be able to help relieve anxiety and stress, but this relief is largely dependent on the cannabis strain's composition and on the individual's drug tolerance, pre-existing conditions, and other environmental factors. Cannabis may provide a safe and effective alternative to the pharmaceuticals traditionally used to treat anxiety, and now studies are beginning to backup the anecdotal claims to its efficacy. A study from Canada found that within 90 days of prescription medical cannabis use, 40% of patients treating anxiety and pain were able to stop their use of benzodiazebines. Another study from Vanderbilt University in 2014 found smoking marijuana increased the presence of endocannabinoids, which are naturally-occurring brain chemicals that can decrease as a result of chronic stress. Some researchers theorize reduced endocannabinoids could potentially cause anxiety disorders. Additionally, marijuana's role in memory extinction has led experts to believe it could be suitable in the treatment of PTSD. 

While cannabis may be able to help treat anxiety disorders, it has also been known to cause short-term anxiety and paranoia in some instances, especially when the individual is new to the plant or consumes large doses. Anxiety can also occur after abruptly stopping cannabis use. That said, studies have found only a small association between cannabis use and anxiety disorders, and some have deemed it only a "minor risk factor" in developing symptoms of anxiety. Many find THC helps anxiety for some, while it exacerbates its symptoms of others. CBD acts on serotonin receptors so that it can help regenerate brain cells that are lost or damaged due to chronic anxiety and depression. The ratio these two cannabinoids can determine whether cannabis helps or worsens symptoms, and strains that are higher in CBD are less likely to cause anxiety. In addition to cannabinoids, terpenes found in cannabis can also influence relief. Some terpenes that may help treat anxiety include Myrcene, Linalool, β-Caryophyllene, and Terpinolene.

When trying out cannabis for anxiety, knowing your optimal dose is crucial, and our app can help! Document your regimen daily in the journaling section of our app so that you can see which strain of cannabis and dosing amount provides the most effective relief. This information has been provided in part by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.