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More than 40 million people in the United States face symptoms of anxiety each year. That is almost a fourth of the American population and many suffer from anxiety that goes undiagnosed. Are there solutions for anxiety beyond pharmaceutical drugs? Read on to explore more about cannabis could be a viable alternative to treat anxiety.
What is anxiety and how do I know if I have it?
According to conventional research, there are five different kinds of diagnosable anxiety:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Panic Disorder (PD), and
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Any of the above conditions can stem from a number of factors, including genetics and family history, specific conditions like Leaky Gut and Alzheimer’s, hormonal imbalance, and emotional stress.
You will probably recognize many of these common signs of anxiety:
- Trouble breathing
- High-stress responses/ always being “on alert”
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach upset
- Confused thinking
- Feelings of worry and dread in general
No matter what the reasons for anxiety and the effects it has had on your body, this patterned response can be healed and cannabis can be one of the ways to help you get there.
Can cannabis help me with anxiety?
The short answer is yes, and the reason why is because of what THC, CBD, and key phytonutrients working with these cannabinoids can do to boost the endocannabinoid system. These amazing phytonutrients also provide healing and balancing for the nervous system, the brain, the circulatory system, the gut, and the whole body.
In particular, through the endocannabinoid system, cannabis can also help to regulate and boost the production of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for rest and relaxation (serotonin and chemical precursors to it primarily). At the same time, it can downregulate hormones related to stress responses such as adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. Evidence-based research supports this as a 2019 Canadian study found that cannabinoids, especially CBD, can help with the regulation and production of serotonin. (1)
Another key component for helping anxiety through cannabis is terpenes. Terpenes are chemicals that exist in all plants and are responsible for aroma and taste. Many terpenes present in cannabis contain anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Terpenes such as pinene and myrcene can also directly help to calm the nervous system and the body.
What are the best kinds of cannabis for my anxiety?
Another important question on your health journey is: What kind of cannabis is right for me - high-THC, CBD only, or a combination of the two?
Of course, only you can answer that question since the answer will be based on your unique body and health situation. You don’t have to come to this conclusion completely on your own, however, helping patients with questions such as these is the reason why Wholesome.co has professional, cannabis-trained pharmacists on call to help. You can make an appointment to talk to one of our trained professionals HERE.
At the same time, there is a lot you can learn on your own regarding the specific types of cannabis that can help with GAD, PA, OCD, SAD, and PTSD. For example, cannabis researchers at the University of Washington have already discovered the very best strains and types of cannabis for different ways that anxiety may manifest in a person’s life. (2)
According to many research studies, strains that are high in both THC and CBD can assist best for the immediate manifestations of anxiety panic attacks. A recent investigation conducted at the University of South Florida found that low-dose THC downregulated beta-amyloid protein “plaque” buildup in the brain. This kind of buildup is a contributing factor to not only anxiety but also early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. (3)
As a side note, when THC is used in low amounts, it does not appear to dysregulate melatonin balance. This is key since melatonin production at night is responsible for rest/repair cycles during sleep and also for the production of serotonin during the day.
Straight CBD can also be beneficial for anxiety over the long term. A 2015 major meta-analysis found that CBD was able to provide support for people suffering from a wide array of anxiety disorders, including GAD, OCD, and PTSD. (4)
Best strains for anxiety
Examples of strains that are available through a dispensary in Utah called WholesomeCo, which can lower anxiety are White Widow, Do-Si-Dos, and Blue Dream, amongst others. Strains that contain key calming terpenes such as myrcene and pinene are great for anxiety. Strains available through Wholesome.co that contain these terpenes are Wholesome Gorilla OG and Thin Mint.
Best products for anxiety
- Pure Plan 24k gold punch vape cart
- Zion 1:1:10 tincture
- Jilu 1:1:1 tincture
- Hygge Peaches and Cream 2:1:1 gummy
- Boojum Cherry All Day gummy
- Jilu Forbidden fruit and Super Lemon Haze vape cart
- Lower THC flower 5% to 17%
- Anything 1:1 ratio
- Tryke carts that have about 6 1:1 ratio types
Can cannabis cause anxiety?
Remember when we said that low-dose THC can help a person get out of a rough spot when it comes to panic attacks and other intense symptoms of anxiety? Research has shown that when a person ingests too much THC, it can also have the opposite effect.
According to a 2020 study report published in the journal CPC Emergency Medicine, too much THC in the body can lead to “serotonin syndrome.” (5) This is when the body becomes depleted of serotonin. As a result, depression, fatigue, and increased anxiety can be the result.
The possibility of “serotonin syndrome” is one of the reasons why it is important to find the specific amount (as well as the right dosing method) for any high-THC medical cannabis that you choose to consume. The right amount of THC for you will help support serotonin levels, not deplete them.
How can I use cannabis for anxiety in Utah?
Most studies also indicate that the best way to utilize CBD for anxiety is through extract as an oil-based tincture. The best way to administer medical cannabis for acute manifestations of anxiety (such as panic attacks and PTSD flashbacks) is through vaping. Smoking cannabis (such as in a cigarette or pipe) is not legal in Utah, nor are edibles like gummies, brownies, or cookies. Vaping, however, is legal in the Beehive state.
Here is a rundown of the consumption methods that are available at most Utah dispensaries:
- Vapes and vape cartridges
- Transdermal patches
- Lotions and creams
- Gelatinous cubes
- Cannabis flower
In the state of Utah, anxiety itself is not a “qualifying condition” for legal cannabis use. However, conditions associated with anxiety, such as PTSD and pain, are legitimate qualifying conditions. If you suffer from severe anxiety (and not diagnosed PTSD, pain, or another qualifying condition), you can petition the Utah Compassionate Use Board to see if an exception can be made. Learn more here about qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in Utah.
How much cannabis do I take to calm anxiety?
Now that you have chosen a consumption method, the next question is centered around how much medical cannabis to take.
The first step is to find your “Minimum Effective Dose,” or M.E.D. This number is determined by several factors, including the strain of cannabis, the dosing method, and your unique body make-up. Factors that influence body makeup include weight, ECS tone, frame size, and pre-existing conditions as well as general health and metabolic state.
Start the process of discovering your M.E.D. by taking a very small dose of whatever cannabis product you want to try. An amount of 2.5 mg THC might be enough at first for someone under 150 pounds while 5 mg may be the starting dose for someone with a large build who weighs 200 pounds. Once you have administered that dose, wait about two hours for the effects to manifest if you are taking a dosage form that has to pass through your digestive system.
If you are taking cannabis through a method that bypasses the digestive system, like an inhaled form, wait for at least a half-hour before reflecting on the results and before taking more (if you feel you need to). Make sure to consult with your doctor or pharmacist on dosing as well.
What about cannabis and my prescription anxiety medication?
Unfortunately, there is very little research to date regarding potential reactions between medical cannabis and prescription anxiety medications.
The most common of these drugs are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Some brand names for these include Zoloft, Prozac, and Lexapro. Regularly taking these products along with CBD-only products may speed up the effects of SSRIs as well as of “tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers, and opioids,” according to a report put out by the District of Columbia Department of Health. (6)
Less is known about drug interactions with THC-based cannabis. Although some initial research indicates that these interactions may be mild in general (if there are any at all), most health professionals recommend lower doses of cannabis to start so you and your healthcare professional can see how it interacts with your body and your medications.
Cannabis could help with your anxiety
Getting a case of the “nerves” every once in a while is normal for us humans. Suffering day in and day out from debilitating anxiety and panic is not. Unfortunately, this is the norm for millions of Americans every day.
However, research suggests that cannabis can help
Be sure to sign up for a FREE consultation with one of our PhD-level professional pharmacists today. The appointment is free and can help you get started on your cannabis journey in a way that will most support you.
- Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain
- A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect
- The Potential Therapeutic Effects of THC on Alzheimer's Disease
- Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
- Serotonin Syndrome versus Cannabis Toxicity in the Emergency Department
- Medical Cannabis: Adverse Effects and Drug Interactions
- Psychotropic Medications and Substances of Abuse Interactions in Youth