Cannabis has a wide variety of applications in medicine, and there is a growing body of research on its use to treat anxiety disorders. With 1 in 10 Canadians experiencing anxiety, its potential as an alternative treatment modality is highly relevant. In this article, we will explore the relationship between anxiety and cannabis, sorting through recent research and examining expert recommendations.
What is Anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety can cause symptoms such as persistent worrying, feelings of dread, and high blood pressure. Anxiety is a natural response to perceived threats or stressors, and a certain degree of anxiety can be adaptive in helping individuals prepare for life’s many challenges. However, excessive or chronic anxiety can interfere with daily functioning and compromise overall mental well-being.
How Can Cannabis Help?
Cannabis contains compounds known as cannabinoids—notably, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD), both of which have been linked to potential therapeutic benefits for individuals coping with anxiety. These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, a complex physiological network that regulates a wide array of bodily functions including appetite, pain sensation, and stress response.
Experts emphasize the importance of taking into account the dosage, type of strain, and mode of consumption when evaluating the impact of cannabis on anxiety. The way cannabis impacts an individual depends on various factors: age, frequency of use, sensitivity to THC, metabolic rate, and others.
A 2023 review of recent research points to cannabis, particularly strains high in CBD, as a potentially effective treatment for anxiety. Cannabis strains that are high in both THC and CBD were shown to reduce stress, thereby lowering levels of anxiety. Cannabis strains lower in THC were shown to be effective at combating depression, which is also commonly linked to anxiety.
Evidence points strongly towards CBD’s positive effects on anxiety, generally reducing symptoms at all doses, with little to no negative side effects. However, research suggests that both CBD and THC can have anxiety-reducing properties, with THC functioning best at lower doses.
CBD is particularly effective at calming anxiety in high-pressure scenarios.In a 2018 study, participants were given either CBD or a placebo before a public speaking test. The participants who had taken CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety during the test. This points to cannabis as an aid for not only public speaking, but also high-stress moments such as interviews, medical procedures, and major life events.
Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with sleep disturbances. Cannabis strains with higher CBD content have been reported to improve sleep quality and duration. In a 2022 sleep study, nearly 40% of participants were able to reduce or discontinue their use of a prescription sleep medication when they used cannabis before sleep. Furthermore, improved sleep can indirectly alleviate anxiety symptoms, as a well-rested mind is better equipped to cope with daily stressors.
What the Critics Say
While there is a body of research supporting the positive effects of cannabis on anxiety, there is conflicting evidence, especially regarding high-THC strains. Evidence points to THC helping with anxiety symptoms in small doses, but high THC has been linked to increased anxiety and panic attacks in certain cases, especially in adolescents.
For now, the research is inconclusive due toin the absence of additional placebo-controlled and double-blind studies.
As researchers continue to explore the efficacy of cannabis in treating anxiety disorders, more people are reaching for cannabis as a method to cope with anxiety symptoms. Based on the research, it is clear that there are individuals who can truly benefit from cannabis as an anxiety treatment. Whether for routine stress alleviation, improved sleep quality, or pre-emptive calming of the mind before significant events, cannabis presents a possible therapeutic avenue.
© Kanab Inc. – Kanab Inc. is a Toronto based cannabis retail company that honors the historical significance and uses of the cannabis plant across cultures and civilizations. Kanab has now opened its first cannabis dispensary at the intersection of Don Mills Road and York Mills Road in North York region of Toronto, Ontario (South of 401, West of 404 / Don Valley Parkway, and East of Leslie). For more info, please visit: kanab.ca