Cannabis and Anxiety

Why the Jury Is Still Out on Cannabis and Anxiety


There has been a lot of discussion about the potential medical benefits of cannabis in recent years. Thanks to legalization in thirty-eight states, medical cannabis is getting a lot of attention. And still, there is a lot we do not know about the plant and its ability to improve health. Take the question of using cannabis to treat anxiety. The jury is still out on that one.

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that a lot of people use cannabis to treat anxiety and other mental issues. But there is also competing anecdotal evidence that indicates cannabis could make anxiety worse. So who is right? More importantly, what does the scientific evidence say?

A Lack of Study Data

One of the biggest hindrances to medical cannabis right now is a lack of study data. There are not a whole lot of clinical studies we can look at to understand cannabis’ effect on anxiety. And the few studies we do have tend to be of such a small scale as to be inconclusive. That leaves us to rely mostly on anecdotal data.

Anecdotal data is that information reported by users themselves. It is certainly valid, but the laws of scientific discovery require that clinical studies either refute or prove anecdotal evidence. In other words, we do not form scientific consensus based solely on patient reports.

Cannabis Helps and Hurts

Getting back to the question of cannabis and anxiety, plenty of patients report that it helps them. They say that cannabis consumption helps them relax, improves their sleep, and gives them a better outlook on life. The combination of all three things would probably reduce feelings of anxiety in most people. But most does not equal all.

There are other people who claim that consuming cannabis makes their anxiety worse. They feel more uneasy and agitated. They feel more social anxiety when out in public. For some reason, cannabis seems to affect them in ways that are more hurtful than helpful. But why?

It Could Be the Cannabinoids

We do not know for sure why people suffering from anxiety respond differently to cannabis. But the answer could lie in the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. The two most prominent are CBD and THC. Nearly all the commercial cannabis produced in this country is cultivated to maximize one or the other.

It is believed that CBD has a more calming and relaxing effect despite not producing a psychoactive high. On the other hand, while THC can also help people relax and feel better, there are suspicions that it may increase feelings of anxiety over the long term.

If such thinking proves correct, it will explain why certain strains of cannabis are preferred over others for treating anxiety. If a strain has a higher amount of CBD and less THC, it might be better at relieving negative emotions.

Different Markets to Consider

There is another factor in play here: the different cannabis markets.  Park City, Utah’s Deseret Wellness explains that CBD is legal to produce, distribute, and use nationwide. As long as a CBD product contains no more than 0.3% THC, it is good to go. Anything with a higher THC volume is considered a marijuana product.

Are CBD users more likely to experience anxiety relief than their THC counterparts? That would seem easy enough to figure out just by surveying the markets separately. At any rate, the point is that we still cannot say with utmost confidence that cannabis is an effective anxiety treatment. The jury is still out. It seems to work for some but make things worse for others.

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