Anxiety. A word that so many of us know, intimately. It could mean waking up at night, thoughts racing about financial woes, loneliness, the feeling of too much responsibility on your shoulders.
Or social anxiety; the feeling that everyone else gets this social interaction thing so much better than you. Finding yourself hiding away at home, avoiding situations that will put you in contact with new people.
Perhaps it’s a pervasive feeling that you are not living up to your potential, that sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Or a fear of flying, getting on an elevator, or that trapped sensation that can come with a traffic jam.
If you resonate with any of these; or if you know what a full-on panic attack feels like: the sweats, the shaking, that tightness in your chest, the need to run, with nowhere to go…than you, like me, have some anxiety issues to deal with.
These might just be a part of your personality that you have always had; or perhaps anxiety is something that you developed in the course of your life as a result of trauma.
In fact, anxiety is one of the basic symptoms of PTSD. It’s not easy, believe me, I know. Just getting through the day, or the to-do list, can be a real challenge.
Certain sounds, sights, and situations can be triggering, and the effects can spill over to all areas of your life, including family relationships and career.
The good news is that Creation Itself has prepared the medicine before the sickness. Before words like anxiety and triggering were in our lexicon, Mother Earth was busy preparing the humble plant that can bring healing to anxiety. In this post we will give you a basic understanding of:
- Why Is Marijuana Effective for Treating Anxiety?
- How Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety?
- What about cannabis and PTSD?
- Which Are the Best Cannabis Strains to Treat Anxiety?
- What are the benefits of medical cannabis over conventional meds?
This article is a labor of love, as marijuana, whether smoked or taken as oil, has been a big part of getting me through the anxiety that is part of my PTSD.
It has helped me to be more present in my relationships, especially with my children, and has helped me to continue to take steps forward in my career despite the fears that anxiety can amplify.
It is my sincere wish that this article can help you, too, on your healing journey, to use this natural medicine on your healing path. However, the use of marijuana to treat anxiety is not without risks.
Any kind of self-medication does carry with it the possibility of misuse of the substance, or avoidance of dealing with the root cause of the anxiety, so I will touch on those issues as well.
Additionally, there has been some correlation between dependence upon marijuana and long-term anxiety disorders, as well as some concern about the affects of marijuana use on the developing brain of teenagers, which is worth noting.
Why Is Marijuana Effective for Treating Anxiety?
Marijuana produces its calming effect because of its influence on the neurotransmitter GABA, known to combat anxiety. Benzodiazepines are common elements in conventionally anti-anxietymedications and are also found in cannabis. Studies have also correlated a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol with the regular use of cannabis.
How Does CBD Help Treat Anxiety?
CBD has been shown in clinical trials to decrease anxiety, without the intense psychotropiceffects of THC, and potential backlash of anxiety that sometimes comes with strains that contain higher percentages of THC.
CBD is thought to affect CB1 receptors in the brain, increasing serotonin levels, which is the brain chemistry affect sought in conventions anti-anxiety medications. In addition, CBD is more accepted because it contains many health benefits without the “high” of THC concentrated strains.
THC is known to trigger the amygdala area of the brain which can result in increased anxiety and even paranoia.
Both compounds have many medical relating to the treatment of anxiety, including social anxiety and the fear of public speaking.
It is important to remember that we are talking about debilitating anxiety as opposed to the anxiousness that most people experience to some degree regarding major life changes or decisions that must be faced.
Anxiety disorders interfere with daily life and functioning in the long term. Some of the symptoms suffered by those with anxiety disorders, like panic, sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness and muscle tension, have been proven to be positively affected by proper use of medical marijuana.
Overly high intake of THC can backfire and cause increased anxiety levels. CBD is therefore a safer treatment for anxiety.
Higher levels of anxiety disorders among pot smokers may be a result of the use of pot to self-medicate existing disorders, rather than the use of marijuana causing anxiety disorders per say.
The NIH sponsored scholarly article: “Cannabinoid-related agents in the treatment of anxiety disorders: current knowledge and future perspectives” comes to the following conclusion: “While studies on the biological determinants of different responses to cannabis are still at their preliminary stages, advances in this area may be essential to allow a personalized approach for the employment of cannabinoid-based therapies in anxiety and mood disorders.”
What about cannabis and PTSD?
Cannabis can provide relief for some of the major symptoms of PTSD, including anxiety, nightmares, and insomnia. Cannabis has been shown to fight feelings of anxiety thanks to CBD, and to reduced REM sleep, the stage of sleep during which most vivid dreams occur.
These dreams are known to plague PTSD suffers, adding to stress and cumulative sleep deprivation that makes it harder to deal with the symptoms of the disorder. THC increases the quality and consistency of sleep. Medical cannabis is also used along with other therapies. More about this in the next section.
Another of the possible effects of marijuana use is a loss in short term memory; a side affect that can be troublesome in certain cases, but helpful in PTSD, where the ability to “forgot” can be a blessing.
Here, it is important that we are referring to extreme anxiety that can significantly interfere with function, not mild anxiety or the every day stresses of life, which can be exacerbated by the side effect of memory loss.
Rather, extreme anxiety and sleep disturbances associated with PTSD that can disrupt major relationships and the ability to work and otherwise maintain a functional lifestyle.
What are the benefits of medical cannabis over conventional meds?
Traditional medications for anxiety can be problematic in several ways. For one, they are often over prescribed, without a proper diagnosis.
Additionally, these drugs can cause and overall numbing affect that interferes with a person’s ability to experience joy and other positive emotions, as well as having side effects that can put a damper on life.
People going through difficult losses and transitions such as facing the death of a loved one, or a crisis such as divorce, can sometimes have their natural coping skills interfered with when prescribed anti-anxiety meds that create a buffer from their feelings.
Another side effect of these medications is how difficult they can be to wean off. Once started, stopping these meds can cause extreme mood swings and despair that can become dangerous. And worst of all, some studies have shown that death rates rise with the use of anti-anxiety medications. using these drugs are almost 40% more likely to die than people who do not use them.
Marijuana, on the other hand, can result in dependency as opposed to addiction, and generally is much gentler and more easily reduced in dosage to allow a person to reduce their dosage.
Marijuana can obviously bring a high, and positive emotions and sensation, but can increase sensation and positive body sensations without numbing. Therefore, it can be used in conjunction with other therapies to heal the root cause of the problem, as opposed to numbing or hiding
Which Are the Best Cannabis Strains to Treat Anxiety?
The best cannabis strains for generalized anxiety are Granddaddy Purple (Indica), Jack Herer (Sativa), and Cannotonic (hybrid).
All have tension relieving properties that come on gently to avoid an anxiety backlash, and treat muscle tension, sleep problems, and stress. Indica is more of relaxer, while sativa can treat anxiety while encouraging creativity and energy for more active times.
Hybrids combine the best of both worlds and can be useful for those who have a negative affect to high THC levels yet want to maintain and more energetic mood.
The best cannabis strains for PTSD are the hybrids Girl Scout Cookies and Canna-Tsu. Both bring the benefits of increased happiness, relaxation and euphoria, as well as providing sleep aids and anandamide, and brain compound which affects memory, which is often lacking in those suffering from PTSD.
They also provide relief from night terrors and nightmares. Canna-Tsu is known for providing relief with a clear head which helps to maintain high daily functioning levels.
Social anxiety is best helped by the sativa strain Strawberry cough, which helps with symptoms such as dry mouth and paranoia, which keeping the user alert and social, able to converse and interact.
The Hybrid strain ACDC also provides relaxation and focus, which is good for social functioning, with very high levels of CBD for minimal psychoactive affects.
The best cannabis strains for insomnia, and obvious symptom of anxiety, are the Indica strains Blackberry Kush and Purple Urkle.
These are going to be sleep enhancer, most suited for a bedtime routine, and probably counter indicate for functioning, focus and social settings. Both provide calming, sleepy, euphoric and sedative properties.