Can Marijuana Help With Anxiety?
Marijuana is an interesting drug due to its intoxicating effect on the human mind. Many people swear by the fact that marijuana alleviates their anxiety by relaxing and calming them down. But others would argue otherwise, claiming that marijuana exacerbates their anxiety to the point of inducing panic-like symptoms.
But without randomized-controlled trials, we cannot assume that marijuana is efficacious for anxiety disorders. But that does not mean that we should discount the many user reports circulating around about marijuana’s positive effect on anxiety. If marijuana does alleviate anxiety, how does it do that?
We know that THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the periphery. We also know that there are two strains of marijuana: indica which produces more of a body high and sativa which produces more of a head high.
Which strain alleviates anxiety more depends on the user. Many would attest that indica highs do a better job at alleviating anxiety, because the high is more directed towards the body. This results in a lesser head high and potentially less anxious symptoms. On the other hand, sativa may exacerbate anxiety in users because it mainly provides a head high.
What is a typical user experience on marijuana that leads to less anxiety? If you’re feeling on edge, worried and anxious, within the first 5 minutes of inhaling marijuana, the user will feel their state of consciousness slowly being altered. The feeling is a sense of mental relaxation with the perception of slowed time.
The user also becomes more aware of their bodily sensations and their surroundings; everything becomes more alive and interesting to the senses. Because of this, it may take away the user’s focus on their anxiety symptoms; their attention becomes redirected to other activities which become more interesting, such as music and movies.
But what about a user’s experience with marijuana exacerbating anxiety? The anxious symptoms can escalate within a few minutes of inhaling or later on in the journey. The anxious symptoms can be quite severe, to the point of inducing a panic state or the thought of “losing one’s mind.”
An example of anxiety while on marijuana may include something of this sort: you’re standing in your kitchen high and eating a delicious delicacy. Your taste buds are on fire while you slowly allow your masticatory muscles to chew away your small piece of heaven. But all of a sudden, out of no where, your perception of you standing in place and eating becomes magnified and blown out of proportion!
There is way too much unnecessary focus by your mind on your current situation: your posture, your chewing, your bodily sensations such as your heart rate and breathing, and your thoughts. The next thing you know, you’re starting to experience anxious thoughts: “oh my god, I’m freaking out! I feel uncomfortable. Something bad is going to happen! I wish I could end this high!”
And that’s how one potentially experiences a panic attack while under the influence of marijuana. Therefore, we do not yet know if marijuana is a good medicine for anxiety. For some people it works wonders, while for others, it wreaks havoc! Until we have conclusive RCT results, we can only go by user reports.
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