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The Link Between Marijuana & Anxiety

Published on April 20, 2021
The Link Between Marijuana & Anxiety

Marijuana (cannabis) is one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances in the United States. Marijuana has gained attention as an alternative medicine for treating symptoms of several health problems, including anxiety. 

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may be curious about the benefits of marijuana. Although marijuana may reduce anxiety in low doses, high doses and frequent use are associated with anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. 

Effects Of Cannabis 

Cannabis contains several cannabinoids (chemical compounds), including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). 

THC is the chemical that produces the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient that may have therapeutic benefits for anxiety. 

When you use marijuana, either by smoking or ingesting (in the form of edibles), THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in your brain. Activating these receptors causes the pleasurable effects associated with marijuana use. 

Short-term effects of cannabis may include:

  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • heightened senses
  • increased appetite

Medical Marijuana For Anxiety

Medical marijuana continues to be a controversial topic because it is not regulated on a federal level. However, several states have legalized its medical use, and marijuana, oils, and food products can be purchased from dispensaries. 

Medical cannabis may temporarily improve symptoms of the following anxiety disorders:

  • PTSD
  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • panic disorder
  • social anxiety disorder

Policies on dispensing marijuana vary by state, which causes inconsistencies in dosing. Even worse, many medical marijuana dispensaries do not have a limit on how much THC a product may contain (the recommended dose is 10 milligrams). 

Linking Marijuana & Anxiety

Many people use marijuana to cope with anxiety disorders but long-term use of marijuana can lead to adverse effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marijuana use is associated with the onset of social anxiety disorder. 

Heavy or frequent use may increase the risk of the following adverse effects:

  • anxiety
  • panic attack
  • paranoia
  • psychosis

Using marijuana in high doses may also cause impairment in several brain functions, including memory, learning, and attention. Whether or not you experience these adverse effects depends on your current mental health and environment. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC is a psychoactive chemical compound that causes the mind-altering effects associated with marijuana. Although recreational use is associated with euphoria and reduced anxiety, high doses may induce anxiety in some individuals. 

THC can also be extracted from the cannabis plant and used in food and drink products (edibles). Edibles contain high THC concentrations, which increases the risk for symptoms of anxiety and overdose. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) 

CBD oil is a non-psychoactive chemical compound that can be extracted from the hemp plant, a species of the cannabis plant. It does not have the same mind-altering effects of THC, which means there is no risk for abuse or dependence. 

CBD is legal in most parts of the country but the laws and restrictions vary by state. CBD may have more anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects than THC, which may make it more suitable for individuals with pre-existing anxiety and related disorders. 

Although CBD does not have psychoactive effects, it may cause the following side-effects:

  • nausea 
  • fatigue
  • irritability 
  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • reduced appetite
  • drowsiness

Does Marijuana Help Anxiety?

Although marijuana may have short-term benefits for anxiety in some individuals, it is not a long-term solution. 

The effects of marijuana can vary depending on your state of mind and the potency of the drug. Higher amounts of THC may cause anxiety and several other physical and psychological effects.

Prescription medication may be a more suitable alternative for chronic anxiety disorders. Most antidepressant medications are non-addictive and may be an effective treatment for anxiety. Antidepressants are federally regulated and a doctor can safely prescribe an appropriate dose. 

Risk Of Tolerance & Addiction

Marijuana may be perceived as safer than other illicit drugs. However, it is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States with a high risk for addiction. Frequent cannabis use can lead to increased tolerance, meaning you need higher amounts to achieve the desired effect. 

Higher doses of marijuana increases the risk of adverse effects, including paranoia and anxiety. If you think you or a loved one is addicted to marijuana, a professional treatment program can help you safely recover. 

If you would like more information about addiction treatment programs, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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