Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
There is a debate in the medical marijuana community — does cannabis cause anxiety or treat it? Smoking pot has been known to produce episodes of paranoia. This can be mild, causing nothing more than a slight feeling of unease. However, it has also caused panic attacks that give the user an overwhelming sense of dread.
Marijuana is used by people everywhere to relax and de-stress. In states where medical marijuana is legal, it’s sometimes used as a treatment for psychological issues like depression, PTSD and even anxiety itself. It’s shown remarkable success at calming symptoms associated with stress disorders.
So why is there such a divide? How can some users fear marijuana will cause anxiety, while others are using it to treat that very symptom? The truth of it is — it really depends on the individual.
Because cannabis is a federally banned substance, it’s extremely difficult to perform research tests to determine why and how marijuana causes anxiety. This effect is subjective, depending on the user, and there’s no apparent reason as to what causes it — it creates different reactions in different people.
One of the active cannabinoids in marijuana is THC. This compound, along with the other compounds in cannabis, binds with neural receptors in our brain and body. This is what produces pot’s strong effects. When THC binds to neural receptors in the amygdala, it can affect fear, stress and other emotions. Overexciting these receptors can cause anxiety or paranoia.
There are a few risk factors that influence if an individual will experience anxiety when they use marijuana:
It’s important to work with your doctor or a qualified budtender at a local dispensary when deciding on your medical marijuana treatments and dosage. Until then, here are some general things to keep in mind that may help reduce or eliminate the risk of marijuana-induced anxiety:
Prescription medications all have a list of side effects that accompany them. Although the same is true for medical marijuana, the benefits it provides to countless individuals with severe medical conditions is astounding. If you’re afraid that cannabis treatments could induce feelings of anxiety, be mindful and speak to your doctor.
For more information about medical marijuana, make an appointment with a marijuana certified doctor or visit a dispensary near you.