Should You Take Medical Cannabis for Anxiety?

30th November 2020

Should you consider using cannabis to combat your anxiety? It’s not the perfect answer for everyone. However, a growing amount of research suggests that a lot of anxious people have used Cannabis for Anxiety.

As more countries legalize cannabis, both for medicinal and recreational use, more and more people are turning to cannabis in hopes of managing anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Although scientific research in this area is still sparse, there are anecdotal and new scientific reports of cannabis creating a calming experience that temporarily relieves symptoms of anxiety for many people.

Cannabis as Self-Medication

Once you use a substance to treat or cope with a medical problem it is called self-medicating.

Often, self-medicating produces an immediate relief of the uncomfortable symptoms, thereby reinforcing its use.

The problem with self-medication is that even though the use of cannabis is becoming more acceptable, not enough is known about the efficacy of the drug. Not enough is known in relation to medical conditions or even its long-term consequences.

Benefits

The scientific community has recently started examining the effect of cannabis on anxiety, and the verdict is that short-term benefits do exist.

Scientists at Washington State University published a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders that found that smoking cannabis can significantly reduce self-reported levels of depression, anxiety, and stress in the short term.

However, repeated use doesn't seem to lead to any long-term reduction of symptoms and in some individuals may increase depression over time.

Risks

Cannabis can affect your body in a number of ways beyond the psychoactive. Tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC) creates the euphoric feeling experienced after smoking or ingesting cannabis.

THC is a chemical compound (cannabinoid) that gives cannabis its psychoactive effects.

The effects of THC do not come without risks, and long-term or frequent use has been associated with several potential side effects.

Higher Levels of Psychiatric Disorders – it is possible that people who use cannabis for an extended period of time have higher levels and symptoms of depression, despite any improvements they may have seen in this regard with short-term use. However, it's said that using CBD oil for depression can have some benefits after long-term usage.

Some research has also shown that heavy use of cannabis in adolescence (particularly in teenage girls) can be a predictor of depression and anxiety later on in a person's life. Certain susceptible individuals are also at risk for the development of psychosis with the use of cannabis.

Psychological Dependence – The central problem with using cannabis as an anxiety coping tool is that it can create a psychological dependence on the substance. Though CBD oil for anxiety it is said is growing in popularity,

Since the effects of cannabis are fast-acting, long-term behaviour-based coping strategies may seem less helpful at first and may be less likely to be developed.

Long-Term Memory Loss – There are a growing number of studies that have found that long-term use of cannabis may result in memory loss. Memory impairment occurs because THC alters one of the areas of the brain, the hippocampus, responsible for memory formation. It also can have negative consequences on the brain’s motivation system.

Increase in Symptoms – THC raises heart rates, which for those with anxiety, may make you feel even more anxious. Using too much cannabis can also make you feel scared or paranoid.

In some cases, cannabis can also induce orthostatic hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing, which can cause lightheadedness or feeling faint. Cannabis can also cause feelings of dizziness, nausea, confusion, and blurred vision, which can contribute to anxiety. For the sickness though, CBD for nausea is something that is being researched more and more.

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Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrom – this is a rare consequence of frequent cannabis use. With today’s more potent strains, is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). This involves cyclical nausea and vomiting.

This is paradoxical and can be difficult to diagnose, as cannabis has been used to decrease nausea and vomiting in cancer treatment. Sufferers sometimes find relief in hot baths and showers, but ultimately, abstinence from cannabis is necessary for long-term improvement.

Escalating Need – tolerances are easy to develop. This means the more you use it, the more you will eventually need.

Benefits and Risks Overview

Benefits

  • Reduce depression
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Even out stress

Risks

  • Potential psychiatric disorders
  • Dependency issues
  • Long-term memory loss
  • Rarely, symptoms may increase
  • Development of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome
  • Can create increased tolerance and need

How to Use Cannabis for Anxiety Safely

If you’re curious about trying cannabis for anxiety, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of it worsening your anxiety symptoms.

If you’re new to cannabis, start with something that contains a higher ratio of CBD to THC. (High levels of THC are what tend to make anxiety symptoms worse)

Start with a low dose. Remember to give it plenty of time to work before using more.

Purchase your cannabis from the most reliable outlet or retailer you can. With cannabis, the old adage of you get what you pay for is true.

Know about interactions – cannabis can sometimes interact with or even reduce the effectiveness of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Alternatives to Cannabis

Feeling some anxiety is normal and even helpful. However, when feeling anxious becomes pervasive and difficult to control, it's time to seek professional help. They can help you go over the options for anxiety management.

CBT

No, it's not another cannabinoid. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you determine the underlying causes of your anxiety and manage it more effectively.

Working with a psychotherapist will give you a better handle on your condition and what your future outcomes are.

Medication

The use of certain prescription medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been firmly established as a safe and effective treatment for anxiety disorders.

Prescription medication is also preferable to cannabis since the long-term risks have been better studied and are potentially less significant compared to long-term cannabis use.

A psychiatrist or your primary care doctor can prescribe you an anti-anxiety medication, should you need one.

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