Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Whether you just received a diagnosis or have grappled with it for years, anxiety can be very difficult to deal with. Regardless of the severity of your case, an anxiety disorder makes usually simple activities feel like insurmountable tasks.
Some patients have difficulty finding the right treatment for their anxiety. Since we all have unique brain chemistry and react differently to anxiety medicine, the same treatment won’t affect every patient in the same way. In addition to this, finding the right therapist adds another layer to the confusion.
As we learn more about medical marijuana, we are continually discovering new ways it can serve as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medicine. There is increasing evidence showing medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. To help answer any questions you might have, we’ll go over the basics of medical marijuana as a treatment for anxiety disorders, so you can decide if it might be an option for you.
The information we have about medical marijuana suggests that it could act as a replacement for typical anti-anxiety medication. Preliminary research about medical marijuana and anxiety shows cannabis has similar components to manufactured pharmaceuticals for anxiety symptoms.
One of the most commonly prescribed types of anti-anxiety medication is benzodiazepines. It manages the levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA that balances your anxiety levels. Unfortunately, patients who take them tend to build a tolerance quickly, and they cause thousands of overdose deaths every year.
Marijuana seems to also affect GABA levels. Early studies discovered that the components in marijuana, especially cannabidiol (CBD), also manage the amount of GABA in your brain.
Medical marijuana also shows potential for lowering your levels of cortisol, a hormone that indicates how much stress you feel. The lowered cortisol creates a dulled reaction to stress. We aren’t quite sure whether this is an overall good or bad result yet, but this effect could be a total game-changer if it does turn out to be positive.
Medical marijuana can serve as a holistic alternative to anxiety medication without the typical side effects. It has been an effective treatment for symptoms of anxiety disorders for countless patients just like you.
However, some patients experience an increase in anxiety when they use cannabis. Don’t worry, though — with consultation from a marijuana-trained doctor and care in picking the right strain, you can avoid the extra anxiety.
The cannabis compound known as CBD has been shown to offer substantial benefits for people suffering from a variety of anxiety disorders. Cannabis that is rich in CBD has been used in patients who were suffering from anxiety as well as pain, spasms and many other issues. You can’t get high from CBD, and it offers several therapeutic effects. Research animals given CBD have shown significantly lower levels of anxiety than those not given the compound.
In addition to relieving the feelings of unease associated with anxiety, cannabis medicine can address the following anxiety symptoms:
When you experience anxiety as an indirect symptom of a chronic disorder, medicinal marijuana may relieve your symptoms. It helps patients with cancer, chronic pain and seizures.
Whether you can get medical cannabis for your anxiety disorder depends on your state’s laws. If you live somewhere with legal recreational marijuana, you can get cannabis as an adult over 21. Your state may or may not permit medical marijuana for anxiety if it has a medical program. We encourage you to research your state’s medicinal cannabis laws to see if anxiety is a qualifying condition.
No matter how your state lets you get cannabis medicine, we recommend consulting a marijuana-trained doctor. These medical professionals understand how cannabis interacts with your body and other medications.
The right marijuana consumption method for you depends on your symptoms, diagnosis and how you react to cannabis. You have many options to choose from, and each method impacts how your medicine affects you. Let’s look at the ways you can use medical marijuana:
So while you can consume your marijuana in just about any manner and feel relief, some products will work better than others. Patches, pills and oils with 100 percent CBD can relieve your anxiety without making it worse. Try out different products and stay in touch with your doctor so you can make adjustments as you go.
When you get cannabis medicine, you must choose a strain that suits your health needs. Medicating with marijuana isn’t as simple as getting any kind of leaf and using it — every strain of marijuana has unique effects. But it isn’t terribly complicated as long as you do your research and consult with your doctor and dispensary.
Before we talk about specific strains, keep in mind that there are two families of strains — indica and sativa. Indica strains are high in CBD, the compound in marijuana beneficial for anxiety. Meanwhile, sativa strains contain high THC concentrations. Some patients experience anxiety relief from THC, while others feel more anxious. Your doctor can help you find a strain that relieves your symptoms.
If you need help finding a specific strain, we recommend the following six strains for anxiety:
For more strain ideas, try asking your dispensary staff members.
While it has numerous benefits, medical marijuana can also have side effects for some patients. Due to marijuana’s versatility, a negative side effect for one patient can serve as a benefit for another, such as indica strains’ tendency to make the user sleepy. So when you consider the pros and cons of marijuana, you must look at it holistically and understand all its nuances.
If you do experience side effects, there are ways to reduce them. Some side effects of medical marijuana include:
Everyone has a different experience with medical marijuana. With the guidance of a trained medical professional, you can minimize side effects and maximize the benefits.
Research into the benefits of medical cannabis for anxiety is still in its early stages, but indications show that marijuana can help people suffering from anxiety a great deal.
A.R. Schier et al. conducted a comprehensive review of scientific research on the use of CBD for anxiety relief. They looked at studies on both rats and humans.
The researchers found a lot of promise in preclinical studies conducted on lab rats. The results showed potential for treatment for PTSD, panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Their results suggested that lower doses of CBD worked more effectively than higher doses.
The studies addressing CBD’s effect on human psychology also indicated a chance of medical marijuana acting as an anti-anxiety drug. Schier et al. went back as far as the 1980s to compile data on CBD and found it tended to reduce anxiety symptoms in human patients.
So far, we don’t have enough clinical evidence to completely understand how cannabis impacts anxiety disorders. But we’re on the right track toward learning about the calming properties of medical marijuana.
However, we should also keep in mind that marijuana has the potential to cause psychosis that triggers anxiety. As marijuana laws change, we’ll have more opportunities for research that can tell us when and how to use marijuana for anxiety properly. In the meantime, we recommend working closely with your doctor so you can figure out whether or not it works for you.
Now that you know how cannabis medicine treats anxiety, you can further your understanding with knowledge about the condition. In the second part of this guide, we will explain the symptoms and causes of anxiety disorders.
When you have an anxiety disorder, you have feelings of anxiety and worry that interfere with everyday functioning. The anxiety disorder umbrella includes multiple conditions that have different triggers and symptoms. It includes a wide range of mental illnesses such as:
Like other mental illness patients, people with anxiety disorders are often dismissed as overreacting. Sometimes, people will tell them just to calm down. But people with anxiety have a much harder time calming down than someone without it.
Most people have to make a living by working, getting an education, taking care of their household or serving another important purpose. Regardless of your goal in life, constant anxiety impairs your ability to meet it.
But there is hope. Your feelings of anxiety are valid. We’re here to give you support for your medical marijuana treatment, and there are many professionals out there who can help you feel better.
Anxiety disorders have many possible causes. We don’t understand the exact reasons behind the development of this condition. However, professionals notice factors such as:
You may have anxiety because of one or more of these causes. On the other hand, your condition might come from a different source. Regardless of the reason, you have a valid disorder that requires treatment like any other health condition.
As one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., anxiety disorders impact 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America (ADAA) — that’s about 18 percent of the entire population. Only about one-third of people dealing with anxiety seek treatment. Almost half of people with depression also have an anxiety disorder.
Not only do anxiety disorders interfere with daily functioning, but they can also become a financial burden. A 1999 study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry commissioned by the ADAA discovered a huge price tag for anxiety. The costs of anxiety disorder treatment make up almost one-third of the U.S.’s total mental health costs, at $42 billion a year.
Anxiety disorders can cause many symptoms that interfere with your everyday functioning, including:
The combination of symptoms you have and their intensity can vary depending on the nature of your anxiety disorder. Just because you don’t experience these exact symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have an anxiety disorder — only an experienced mental health professional can provide a proper diagnosis.
Treatments for anxiety disorders often take a multidisciplinary approach. The two primary types of anxiety treatment are:
In addition to your medical treatments, you can use self-management strategies to address your anxiety further. Your therapist can teach you some coping strategies during your sessions. In-person support groups or legitimate online resources can teach you more.
Some patients also try alternative and supplemental treatments like exercise and yoga. If you have the ability to do these kinds of physical activities, they will certainly improve your overall health and may offer some relief from your anxiety disorder, as well.
If you want to pursue medical marijuana after reading this page, having some basic knowledge can help you hit the ground running. Our goal at Marijuana Doctors is to give you the necessary information to make the right medical marijuana decision.
Understanding your state laws about marijuana will pave the way for the rest of the steps in your medical cannabis journey. These laws will help you know what types of medicine you can use, where to get medicine, how much medicine you can have at a time and more.
Finding a good doctor and dispensary is also crucial to getting the most out of your cannabis treatment plan. A marijuana-trained doctor near you can provide recommendations. Dispensary staff with the proper knowledge can advise you on the products they sell and how they relate to your anxiety.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder and want to know if medical marijuana is the right solution for you, find a local, qualified physician through MarijuanaDoctors.com. Let us help improve your quality of life!