Cannabis & Anxiety
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
What does the word anxiety mean? While anxiety often comes with many different symptoms, the word’s meaning and how it is experienced are different for everyone. It’s normal to experience worry over everyday situations, whether work-related, personal life, or school. However, sometimes worry can get a little out of control and become a cause for concern. If you have experienced the following symptoms, including feeling restless or unable to relax, fatigue, irritation, unable to concentrate, or trouble breathing, you may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety can happen to anyone at any age and can be caused by various things, including genetics, environmental causes, or trauma (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.).
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, generalized anxiety is one of the most common conditions in the country. Anxiety can be very disruptive to everyday life and function. Just because it’s a condition that many people suffer from doesn’t mean it has to be. There is a range of treatments once anxiety has been officially diagnosed. Anxiety treatments come in various forms, whether it be selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, or therapeutic options, including cognitive behavior therapy. Although, sometimes, anxiety can be treated or at least helped by home remedies by increasing physical movement, cutting out caffeine and nicotine, or other dietary changes (Locke et al., 2015).
Everyone is different, and the same treatments may not be as successful for some as they are for others; therefore, the treatments listed above may not be the only options available for treating generalized anxiety. Sometimes alternative methods may work, and cannabis may be able to help. Cannabis, or CBD specifically, can aid in treating anxiety by increasing the number of anandamide transmitters, a neurotransmitter responsible for producing feelings of happiness and joy. A chain reaction then begins by soothing nerves and muscles, leaving one better able to relax (Alban, 2020).
Cannabis and the human body go well together because they both produce cannabinoids. The cannabinoids in the body are produced by the endocannabinoid system, and their job is to balance out the body and the brain, essentially keeping them on the same page. The human race would be nothing without the endocannabinoid system and its receptors (Alban, 2020). How does it all work? How does CBD bind to the endocannabinoid receptors to treat anxiety? And why is CBD different in how it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors? CBD is different from THC because it doesn’t physically bind to the receptor; instead, it interacts indirectly with the body's receptors. When CBD interacts, it activates the vanilloid receptor one or capsaicin receptors (TRPV1). Together, they work to encourage an increase in anandamide production, a transmitter that’s job is to create feelings of happiness, joy, and a sense of overall well-being (Remedy, 2020).
Anxiety comes in many different shapes, sizes, and forms, including social anxiety. Social anxiety is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a fear of being watched and judged by others, specifically but not limited to public speaking, meeting new people, and generally completing everyday activities in public spaces. Cannabis has been shown to help symptoms of social anxiety, including stress and insomnia. A hormone in the body called cortisol increases when in a stressful situation. Cannabis helps lower cortisol levels; even though the body may still be reacting to the stress, the reaction may be more subdued or in a more relaxed state of mind (Rosado MD, MBA, Chief Medical officer). In 2015, a pediatric study was conducted with a ten-year-old girl suffering from trauma-induced insomnia. She underwent a trial of CBD to help her symptoms. The results yielded that CBD helped maintain her general anxiety symptoms and helped in improving a better quality of sleep (Shannon MD, ABIHM).
While Cannabis can be incredibly consistent in providing relief to patients suffering from various types of anxiety, it’s not always a good match for everyone. In some cases, cannabis treatment may even increase anxiety symptoms. Dr. James Giordano, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, says, “Some are overly sensitive to the ‘activating’ effects of THC, and this can induce anxiety, rather than reduce or relieve it”(Sharpe, 2020). Some of the negative symptoms that cannabis use can produce include anxiety, panic, paranoia, and psychosis.
“The reaction to cannabis depends on whether the stimulatory glutamate or inhibitory GABA is in control. But if those centers were more controlled by Gaba, then Cannabis would have the opposite effect. The GABA-reducing effect of cannabis in this situation would be like taking the foot off the break. Decreasing the signal of this key inhibitory neurotransmitter could rev up the anxiety centers and trigger anxiety, or a panicky fight-or-flight response” (Messamore MD, Ph.D., 2019).
While Cannabis can decrease the excitatory glutamate, which reduces anxiety, it can also decrease the inhibitory GABA, and weakening of inhibitory GABA can cause severe anxiety. It may sound confusing, but these similar polar effects can occur with other medications (Messamore MD, Ph.D., 2019). Everyone reacts to substances in their body differently. Often treating disorders like anxiety, regardless of the type, comes with a period of trial and error to see what works best. A cannabis-induced anxiety attack may produce the following symptoms, including a feeling of doom, sweating and shaking, breathing problems, stomach discomfort, numbness, and feeling disconnected from reality. According to medical professionals, the best solution is to remind yourself that this experience will pass. Try eating if you have an appetite, try a calming exercise, and take deep breaths.
The National Institute of Mental Health gives the following recommendation for those wanting to reach out regarding social anxiety:
Know When to Seek Help
Consult With Your Doctor About Your Mental Health Before Starting Any Treatment
The future of CBD products in the health and wellness industry looks bright. The research on new uses of CBD for mood disorders continues. Most recently, scientists have been conducting studies on genetics and CBD. These could be revolutionary tailor-made products for consumers, especially since everyone reacts differently to cannabis. This would allow medicinal and recreational users to avoid the fears of possible bad reactions and increase safety and effectiveness. Another product that may be seen on more shelves in the future is “water-soluble” oils. The idea is to have CBD oils that contain shrunken or “nano-size” molecules. This increases the ability and effectiveness of penetrating membranes. The cannabis industry is already experiencing massive success and will continue to do so as products become safer and more effective (Garcia, n.d.).
If considering cannabis for the treatment of various conditions, consult with your physician first. Steep Hill is primarily concerned with consumer safety which is why we offer the highest quality cannabis testing services upon request, depending on the location. Steep Hill believes every recreational and medicinal user deserves to know what they consume and should have access to safe and accurately labeled cannabis products.
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What are CB1 and CB2 Receptors? (and How Does CBD Work with Them?). Remedy. (June 22, 2020). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://myremedyproducts.com/what-are-cb1-and-cb2-receptors-and-how-does-cbd-work-with-them/#:~:text=Unlike%20THC%2C%20CBD%20does%20not,receptor%201%20or%20capsaicin%20receptors).