Does Weed Help Anxiety Or Cause It?

Nikhil Goswami

Nowadays, it is not uncommon for people to associate weed or marijuana with relaxation and sleep. There’s been an unending debate about the actual effect of marijuana on people’s mental health. This debate occurs in the public domain and the medical community. It seems everyone is wondering the same thing; does weed cause anxiety? Or does it cure it?

Many people strongly believe that marijuana could potentially be the cure for the condition. While others believe it can only make the condition worse. So, who’s correct and who’s wrong?

While there is a straightforward answer to this question, this article will serve as an overview of what current evidence shows and what conclusions we can make. 

Article At A Glance 

  • Some studies claim weed can be a short-term fix for anxiety symptoms, while others show that it can trigger panic attacks and short-term anxiety in some individuals.
  • People using weed or marijuana are more likely to feel anxious if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation or environment. Stress could also be a trigger.
  • In some quarters, they believe that the sense of anxiety and marijuana withdrawal go hand in hand. If a hardened weed user suddenly decides to take a break, anxiety may be the most pronounced withdrawal symptom.
  • People with anxiety challenges may be more likely to overuse marijuana to self-medicate and deal with the issue. Unfortunately, this would likely lead to substance abuse and further damaging consequences.

Is Weed Dangerous?

If you had asked this question two decades ago, the answer would have been a sharp and definitive yes! However, science and several studies on the plant have completely turned things around. Now you’ll find the governments and drug enforcement administrations of some countries willing to legalize the use of marijuana. The laws may back its use for recreational and medical purposes.

Is weed dangerous? Well, there isn’t a straight answer to the question. People have found that when they use the plant in the correct small doses, its effects are milder. Also, it tends to trigger good body changes.

Often, marijuana issues arise when people overdose on them consistently. This act has, over the years, been the sole reason for the bad press the plant has gotten.

So whether weed is dangerous or not is subjective. It depends on how the end users decide to manipulate it for their gain. As a result, there have been several studies and research on the potency of the weed plant to cure certain diseases and medical conditions.

While progress has been few and far between, if these studies yield meaningful results, in the end, the way the entire world perceives cannabis, and its product will change completely.

What’s The Connection Between Weed And Anxiety?

When it comes to marijuana, it is not so easy to say that it helps cure marijuana or it triggers it. This is because the effects may change from one person to the next.

A broad section of individuals reports symptoms of weed-related anxiety after using the substance. In contrast, others find the effect of marijuana relaxing and a perfect way to unwind after a very stressful day at work.

This means that though there’s a huge campaign about the calming effects of using marijuana, some people experience the exact opposite while using the substance. Their people that have complained about having severe panic attacks after using weed.

However, there is a trend that shows that weed-related anxiety is most common in people that are: panic disorder

  • New and inexperienced when it comes to using weed
  • Weed abusers
  • Found using weed of unbelievably high potency

Studies show that weed can become problematic in any individual if they use it long enough. So, it may be safe to say that marijuana can bring about feelings of relaxation in the short term. However, prolonged use and substance abuse can cause anxiety symptoms or worsen them.

Other studies show that it could cause long-term health problems like cognitive disorders, bipolar disorder and memory loss.

Furthermore, a person’s environment and mental health state while using weed or its products can determine how they react to the substance.

Weed has enough potency to change one’s mood, perception, and feelings completely.

What Are Common Anxiety Symptoms

In the last decade, anxiety and other mental illnesses have drawn the attention of many people in the medical community. Primary anxiety disorder diagnosis became a norm in most mental health institutes.

According to a statistic from the National Institute of Mental Health, about 31.1 percent of adults in the US will experience anxiety issues at some point in their lives. Below are common symptoms of anxiety so you can take proper precautions when you detect them:

  • restlessness
  • a feeling of being on the edge
  • Worry
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

Some common physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • hot flashes
  • unsettled stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

Can Weed Cause Anxiety Or Worsen Its Symptoms?

It is an unpleasant irony that the same people who could benefit from weed’s calming effects are sometimes the ones who do not feel them. Based on people’s experiences and research, the acute effects of weed use commonly include the overwhelming feeling of well-being and relaxation.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. On a broader scale, the anxiety-related side effects of marijuana are often brushed aside and under-reported. However, this does not mean they are not important when discussing the overall effect of marijuana use.

It is a known fact based on research that some side effects of weed consumption may include anxiety, increased risk of psychotic reactions, and panic. It is common in individuals with a history of having these occurrences.

Panic attacks are highly possible as well.

Someone using weed may start out feeling general symptoms of anxiety, and then it escalates to a full-blown panic attack. It is not uncommon for the person in this situation to feel like they are going crazy or about to lose their life.

This situation is very similar to the one you get when you go on a crazy ride with a hallucinogenic substance. These panic attacks can trigger harmful and deadly behavior and reactions in severe conditions.

Some studies also make strong claims about a slight malfunction in the brain functions of chronic marijuana users. These studies show that these brains have lost the ability to filter some stimuli.

Hence, they are prone to having strong panic attacks and hallucinations. Similar studies also show that some weed users and its products are more likely to fall into depression and experience strong anxiety symptoms.

This is because their brains no longer have the capacity to process dopamine as fast as a normal brain would. There is a general belief among some people in the medical community (though unfounded) that the inability to process dopamine fast may be why marijuana abusers show strong signs of anxiety and depression.

Can You Die From A Weed-Induced Panic Attack?

Most people that have gone into full panic attack mode would tell you that they genuinely felt like they were going to die.

However, panic attacks themselves are not a death sentence. However, uncontrolled weed usage can trigger many mental health symptoms, including delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis.

Furthermore, people suffering from these symptoms are most likely to put themselves in a situation where they are a danger to themselves and those around them.

In advanced cases, some people could look to jump through the nearest exit (like a window). They do this in a bid to run away from a perceived threat. In most cases, these situations turn out to be fatal to the individual and disturb people around them.

What’s The Connection Between Edibles and Anxiety?

It’s a challenge to keep track of the quantity of weed you consume when you take weed in its edible form. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the prime psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and edibles are graded according to the amount of THC they contain.

Knowledgeable drug users recommend starting with a very small dose, like two or three milligrams of THC, and then waiting to see its effect for 60 mins or so. It is important to take this precaution because overdosing on THC can cause strong anxiety symptoms in some people (most likely beginners).

Unfortunately, taking this precaution is only possible when you know how much THC your edibles contain. If you live in a state in the US that has legalized marijuana, you can get accurately dosed weed edibles from licensed dispensaries.

Can Symptoms Of Anxiety Still Surface After Being Sober?

If you are a frequent marijuana smoker/consumer who suddenly stops doing so, you’ll likely start to experience symptoms of anxiety and marijuana withdrawal.

Anxiety is a common symptom of weed withdrawal. It is even more prevalent in people who have a history of a marijuana overdose.

Side effects of this withdrawal will usually begin two to three days after you begin the withdrawal process. The peak of these symptoms shows up after a week and could roll over into the following two weeks.

Does Weed-Induced Anxiety Go Away?

Weed-induced anxiety occurs largely due to inexperienced misusing the substance or people overdosing on THC. As a result, anxiety usually goes away when the user creates a regulated dosage plan and gets used to the drug.

What THC Strains Trigger Anxiety The Most?

Some users would tell you that some strains of THC like delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol trigger anxiety more than others. While this remains a genuine debate among cannabis enthusiasts, science completely disagrees.

This is because there are very little data available to show which THC treats anxiety and which one doesn’t.

However, with a lot of money involved being pumped into the cannabis market and the need to push products with the “entourage THC,” bold claims about the effects of THC may be mere marketing stunts.

Can Weed Help With Anxiety Problems?

As we have pointed out earlier, we may cause anxiety in some users and treat the same condition in others. In more specific terms, weed contains other useful components like Cannabidiol (CBD) that may be useful in treating symptoms of anxiety in some people. Similarly, when taken in low controlled doses, weed generally can help treat anxiety.

CBD can have a calming effect on symptoms of anxiety at any dose. On the other hand, users must consume THC at a very low dose to have any calming effect on anxiety problems.

At high doses, THC may cause anxiety or trigger symptoms in individuals already suffering from the condition.

Though the claims are still being researched, some experts believe that a cannabinoid receptor in the brain (cannabinoid receptor type 1, CB1R) is perhaps why components in weed tend to treat anxiety conditions in some people.

Anxiety And Medical Marijuana 

Despite the drop in strict laws against the use of marijuana in the United States, the substance remains an illicit Schedule 1 controlled substance, according to the Federal Government.

However, some states disagree and have made marijuana legally available within the state’s borders. At these levels, the common and most approved form of marijuana is medical marijuana or medical cannabis. This type of marijuana is prescribed to treat different qualifying medical conditions.

You can find the list of US states with medical marijuana programs and dispensaries here.

The localities in these states have an updated list of medical conditions you can use medical marijuana to treat. Furthermore, states have the right to determine whether anxiety falls into the category of medical conditions that medical marijuana can treat.

In Florida, anxiety is not considered a medical condition that medical marijuana can remedy. Also, the state will determine whether doctors need a certificate to prescribe medical marijuana to patients; these patients may or may not need a registry card to proceed.

You can contact your healthcare provider if you are keen to know whether you qualify for medical marijuana. You can also contact your state’s local health department for clarifications, so you don’t make wrong and unlawful decisions.

Are Women More Prone To Weed Induced Anxiety Disorder Than Men?

When it comes to anxiety, marijuana is very complicated. While we’ve given some clarity as to why this is so, some studies have popped up to indicate that other factors could be important in determining whether cannabis can treat anxiety disorders or not.

This study suggests that biological gender may have a hand in determining who gets anxiety-related symptoms from using cannabis irregularly. The John Hopkin University study says that women may be more likely to get anxiety problems from using weed than men.

The goal of the research was to determine if there are any differences between how men and women react when it comes to the side effects of regulated and irregular consumption of marijuana. Furthermore, they explored this topic more by studying people that use non-smoking variants of weed like edibles and vaping.

Research like this in the past checked for the difference between men and women who use cannabis products. However, research on how men and women react to the occasional use of weed products is lacking.

The John Hopkins study examined the results from four blind (double), placebo studies on women and men who use marijuana occasionally (who hadn’t used the substance in at least 30 days). The study subjects were given weed or a placebo (marijuana without cannabinoids) to be inhaled through a vaporizer or as edible brownies. Also, participants were given small doses of THC (5 and 25 mg).

Before commencing this acute human clinical trial, all participants were thoroughly examined to establish their actual state when it comes to measures like psychomotor/cognitive performance, subjective drug effects, THC and similar metabolites concentrations of the blood, and cardiovascular effects.

Across the board, participants that didn’t take a placebo had a noticeable increase in their heart rates, blood cannabinoid concentrations, and subjective effects. They also had poor scores regarding cognitive performance.

However, even after the researchers took measures to control body weight and the concentration levels of cannabinoids in the blood, they noticed a difference between the women and men.

Women recorded higher ratings for feeling nervous/anxious, restless and having a racing heart. Women tended to report a racing heart even when it appeared that their heart wasn’t beating at abnormally high rates.

The researchers behind this study suggest those who use weed occasionally are more likely to experience anxiety-related conditions and symptoms when using marijuana products. As a result, they recommend that public messaging, advertisements and clinical decisions surrounding the use of weed products should emphasize lower doses for females.

Suppose women experience the same level of anxiety as men when they consume marijuana at similar doses. Hence, reducing the dose for women will greatly reduce their chances of anxiety symptoms.

This study gives some insight into how biological sex can affect the performance of the chemical components of weed. However, the study has some limitations that we should not overlook.

First, the study did not consider the menstrual cycle and birth control use of the women used as subjects. These factors have enormous effects on hormonal shifts in the body. While it isn’t a guarantee that these hormonal changes will alter the results, hormones affect the influence of psychoactive substances.

Second, the study should have used different vaporizers, other types of edibles, and other marijuana products. Smoking marijuana, for example, may yield a different result.

CBD vs. THC in Treating Anxiety, Which One Works The Best?

THC and CBD are only two of the many chemical components of weed. However, they are the major players in the quest to find the weed component that can effectively and permanently deal with the issue of anxiety. THC treats or has a calming effect on anxiety and its symptoms when used in small quantities (it may cause anxiety when used in higher quantities.

Meanwhile, CBD is believed to be able to treat anxiety at different dose levels. The potency of each chemical component depends strongly on how much each can significantly impact the cannabinoid receptor (CB1R) in the body’s central nervous system. However, there is a serious need for more scientific studies to know exactly how THC and CBD can influence the effects of anxiety. You can also look for CBD gummies for pain if you are facing some issues.

Simple Alternatives To Using Weed For Anxiety Treatments 

When the data shows a significant rise in self-medication when it comes to combating anxiety, the actual number and the reality of the situation could be quite scary. In Washington state alone, more than 58% of people that used medical marijuana in any form did it so they could treat anxiety and related mental illnesses. While this treatment style has worked for some people, it has only made the situation worse for people.

However, there are tested and certified treatment methods for cannabis abuse disorder and anxiety. Some of these treatment methods require you to take medications; others are simply a form of therapy. As is customary, your doctor should be in the best position to tell you which treatment method is right for you in the short and long term.

Verified treatment includes:

Anxiety medication prescribed like:

  • Antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs)
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Buspirone
  • Antipsychotics (not all of them)

Therapies like

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Acceptance and commitment sessions
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Conclusion: Does Weed Cause Anxiety?

So, does weed cause anxiety? Or make its symptoms worse? The answer may be No and Yes. Yes, because an overdose of the plant will contain a large amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known to induce anxiety and worsen its symptoms. And no, because in small concentrations, weed contains Cannabidiol, which some studies have shown can cure anxiety and its symptoms.

So, it is safe to say that how weed works depends on the user and how much of it they consume. It is very different from other commonly consumed illicit drugs. Also, we should not ignore the frequency of cannabis use as a factor. Addicted weed users will have anxiety symptoms while using the plant and when they decide to quit its use.

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