Marijuana and anxiety

Using Marijuana for Anxiety — Everything You Need to Know

Marijuana has been used for treating different sorts of health issues for centuries, which lead to legalizing it (at least for medical use) in a number of states across the world.

With the new research being funded by several liberal governments, we are heading towards a new era of treating disorders with one of the world’s most favorite plants. However, when it comes to marijuana and anxiety, users have divided opinions and experiences.

Some people struggle with more or less intense feelings of paranoia and anxiety as a consequence of using marijuana, while others feel much relaxed and relieved from anxiety-related symptoms.

Why is that the case?

The answer to this lies in marijuana’s chemical structure and its amount of active ingredients known as cannabinoids.

Without a doubt, not all marijuana strains are the same and it’s important to point out that some of them have a unique impact on every individual.

So, does marijuana cause or cure anxiety?

Let’s see what science has to say.

What Is Anxiety?

Coping with stress at the workplace, being slightly nervous before taking the test… We all feel anxious from time to time and that is a perfectly normal part of life.

Anxiety is an emotion which occurs while feeling uneasy and worried in the expectation of future events, and it’s not something to be mistaken with fear which is a reaction to present situation.

Anxious people will also experience weakness, muscular tension, nervousness, slightly faster heart rate and problems with concentration.

However, while anxiety is our appropriate emotional response to occasional future “threat”, feeling anxious on daily basis is something that is called anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are a group of mental issues caused by genetics or external influence, followed by a feeling of mixed fear and anxiety. Having an anxiety disorder can interfere with person’s everyday activities, relations, and overall performance.

Most common anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder — feeling excessive, usually unnecessary and unrealistic worry for several months.
  • Phobia — an irrational fear triggered by certain objects, situations, animals, and even humans.
  • Social anxiety disorder — fear of social situations or performance, resulting in avoidance of social interactions or public speaking.
  • Selective mutism — when a person capable of speech has difficulties speaking with certain people.
  • Separation anxiety disorder — expressing an excessive level of fear and anxiety of separation from a person. Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development but can evolve into disorder, even affecting adults.
  • Panic disorder — unexpected panic attacks and intense fear.

Although symptoms may vary from one type of anxiety disorder to another, there are some symptoms that can occur in all of them, such as feelings of fear, panic, being uncomfortable, problems with sleeping, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, cold or sweaty hands and feet and many more.

Anxiety disorders affect about 11% of Canadians and 18% of the US population. It can occur with other mental disorders and is usually treated through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medications.

Some of these methods can be very effective with some patients and less effective with others. But some, like CBT, require time and effort from both the patient and the psychiatrist.

Lately, more and more doctors claim there is a much faster solution:

Medicinal marijuana.

How Marijuana Affects Anxiety?

Humans have a natural endocannabinoid system which regulates many bodily functions, including anxiety. When certain cannabinoids are introduced to the body, they have been shown to significantly reduce anxiety.

Marijuana bud

Medications for treating anxiety usually targets secretion of serotonin (hormone of happiness) in our body. Conveniently enough, the studies found that CBD (second biggest cannabinoid in marijuana) can positively influence our serotonin receptors, thus producing similar effects.

As I said previously, marijuana can relieve anxiety in some people, while it can trigger it in someone else. It all depends on the plant specific chemical composition.

There are at least 400 different chemical compounds in cannabis.

THC and CBD are the two most common chemicals found in marijuana, but they have two opposite effects on anxiety. Most strains contain both cannabinoids, but their levels tend to vary from strain to strain.

Cannabinoid THC has been linked to making consumers high, producing more psychoactive еffесtѕ, but also increasing the feelings of paranoia and anxiety.

Circumstantially, it activates the area of the brain (amygdala) responsible for fear, especially if taken in high doses.

On the other hand, studies have shown that CBD is responsible for soothing anxiety and making people more relaxed. This compound is usually produced in medical strains.

It will not make the user high as THC, but it will produce a calming effect, coupled with reducing the psychoactive effects of THC.

Fortunately, since cannabis became legal for medicinal use in many countries, its production also became more controlled.

CBD strains have become more popular among consumers, clinicians, and scientists because of their medical benefits.

One of the first studies on humans was conducted back in 1982, when eight volunteers were given THC, CBD, and Valium. As it turned out, CBD blocked the anxiety caused by THC.

Although this research included a small number of participants, it came to some very important results, concluding that there were opposing effects between the two cannabinoids.

Also, back in 1990, researchers made a simulation of public speaking with a group of healthy participants and a group of social anxiety patients who were both given placebo or either CBD, diazepam or ipsapirone.

The results were surprising since only CBD turned out to reduce anxiety in participants making them more comfortable of giving speech in front of other people.

Recent studies are showing similar results. However, clinicians claim more research on humans has to be carried out so we could understand better the overall effect of CBD on other emotions involved with anxiety.

Best Marijuana Strains for Anxiety

Choosing the right strain for you can be the solution to anxiety. It all depends on your THC tolerance and sensitivity, the frequency of consuming marijuana and your overall health.

Maybe it will take some time to test and find the best strain that fits your needs. As a general rule of thumb:

The strains with higher levels of CBD should “do the trick” and strains rich in THC should be avoided.

Here are some marijuana strains which should help you deal with your anxiety.

Cannatonic

This marijuana strain is also one of the most common medical strains and has the best score in reducing anxiety. It contains less than 6% of THC, and between 6 and 17% of CBD. It is used in treating different medical conditions including anxiety. Cannatonic makes users feel relaxed and more happy with almost no psychoactive effects.

ACDS

This is one of the strains containing the highest levels of CBD. In fact, it has 20:1 CBD to THC ratio, reaching almost 19% of CBD levels and only 1% of THC. It produces non psychoactive effects, thus making anxiety sufferers relaxed, with only a little bit of cottonmouth.

Harlequin

The ratio of CBD to THC in this strain is 5:2 (4 to 7% THC and 8 to 16% CBD). In this case, the levels of CBD relaxes the user and decreases the paranoia effects of THC, while THC reduces pain at the same time.

Strawberry Cough

Strawberry Cough is a mild Sativa strain also known to be the best strain in beating social anxiety. Why? It has a slight uplifting and calming effect at the same time, making shy people more easygoing.

Harle-Tsu

Harle-Tsu is usually used in cannabis oils and it has 20 times higher ratio of CBD than THC (5:2). Besides anxiety relieving effect, it gives focused and stress-free feeling without seduction. This flower does not make you psychoactive high but it will provide calmness and pleasant feeling.

CBD Shark

This strain has 1:1 CBD to THC ratio but as it turns out it is very effective in treating anxiety because of its cannabinoids balance. CBD Shark does not give any cognitive changes, in fact, it makes the mind clear and body relaxed. Also, the amount of THC reduces pain and sleepy effect which can be useful in treating side symptoms of anxiety.

Sour Tsunami

Also very rich in CBD, Sour Tsunami became well known as being the first marijuana strain bred because of a higher level of that cannabinoid. CBD makes more than 11% of the plant, while THC stays under 7%. It’s a powerful stress, anxiety and depression reliever.

Sour OG

This strain is also great for anxiety to relieve making your good mood almost immediately. It provides energetic high feeling with relaxing sensation as the high fades away.

Canna-Tsu

Rich in CBD but with an almost same ratio of THC, this strain may produce a slight psychoactive effect. However, by using Canna-Tsu you can experience a calming effect, too, which is why it is also recommended in treating anxiety.

CBD Critical Cure

Critical Cure contains 8% of CBD and 5% of THC and is proven to make anxiety-sufferers go through the day easier, with just a mild psychoactive effect.

Blue Dream

Strain very helpful in treating depression and anxiety, making you much relaxed from everyday worries. Blue dream is actually richer with THC than CBD, but it is very effective in soothing side emotions of anxiety.

Trident

This CBD rich strain (12%) has twice more CBD than THC. Trident makes anxiety patients focused and relaxed, helping them take control of stress and the situation they are in. Having this much CBD entails almost no psychoactive effect at all.

Ringo’s Gift

Ringo’s Gift was made by crossing two strains from our list, making it very rich in CBD cannabinoid (ratio 24:1). It relaxes the body but without producing the helpless stoned effect. Great as a stress relieve and with almost no side effects, except dry eyes.

Sweet and Sour Widow

Wit 1:1 THC to CBD ratio, it is a balanced choice to make your body high but at the same time relaxed and happy. Also, it’s a recommended strain for beginners since it has mild cerebral effects.

With all types of anxiety treatments, finding the best possible solution is an individual process.

The good thing about cannabis is the fact that it helped a lot of people treat their anxiety.

Since the herb can reduce, as well as cause anxiety, stick to high CBD strains and avoid those with high THC levels.

But before all else, don’t forget to discuss all options with your doctor.


In charge of Greencamp’s health section, with a decade long experience of using cannabis for stress relief. Her spare time is mostly divided between Irish dance and reading.

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