The Effects of Cannabis and Anxiety
Within pop-culture Cannabis is constantly referred to as a stress reliever, and people who smoke cannabis tend to be portrayed as more mellow members of their group, but is this true? As is the case with all cannabis related medical studies one factor must be taken into consideration: There have not been enough studies on the substance or its underlying chemical compounds for their outcomes to be declared completely true. The medical world is just now finding acceptance from World governments to allow or fund such studies, so the researchers who have studied cannabis are pioneers in the field but their findings are not definite.
One thing to consider when asking if cannabis can prevent or relieve anxiety is the definition of cannabis. Cannabis is the plant, leaves, flowers, stem, etc, and that plant is made up of many chemical compounds, the one we will be referring to in this article is called Cannabidiol (here on referred to as CBD). CBD does not produce a high or intoxication of any kind so while it may not sound comparable to Cannabis (and it's intoxicating effects) one does not exist without the other. Cannabis is touted as a chill pill by some users and yet others find themselves clouded with paranoia and anxiety after as little as one toke. This disconnect is being caused by uneducated smokers who do not understand why marijuana makes them calm and simply associate the act with the outcome. If you are not already a marijuana user and suffer from anxiety (or anxiety related ailments) then you should be aware that smoking a join make cause you to experience fear and panic. There is a safer starting point to explore when seeking anxiety relief and it is CBD.
We know CBD has many medicinal characteristics. However, researchers haven't yet fully understood the effects of marijuana's medical components. CBD is seen to reduce anxiety in patients. On a side note, it's also been considered as a treatment for people suffering with PTSD. People suffering anxiety were seen to be more responsive to the CBD than people given the placebo, in an experiment conducted in 2011. CBD targets different receptors in the brain, than does THC. While THC is responsible for the psychological effects experienced when smoking cannabis, CBD targets receptors responsible for physiological effects to the body. For example, CBD targets the serotonin 1A receptor. Serotonin is a chemical released into the brain which induces the feeling of relaxation by regulating your mood, cognition and even appetie. CBD's relationship with this receptor is associated with a lot of CBD's therapeutic properties.Serotonin receptors are also known to regulate cortisol, a hormone in your body responsible for controlling your reaction to stress, and oxytocin, which controls your social capabilities.
By understanding how CBD works in the brain, we can see how using CBD as an anxiety treatment can have both physical and psychological benefits. As is with treating anxiety, CBD has many indirect benefits. While CBD has shown promising results in its ability to treat anxiety, it is also effective in promoting healthy sleep patterns while decreasing instances in stress and depression. As it turns out there is immense potential for CBD as a promoter of good mental health. As such, there are more studies needed to be done to further understand the application of CBD. Following, we can look at two separate research studies done to gauge the effects of CBD on anxiety. The first is from Human Psychopharmacology (1) and the second is from the Hawaii J Med Public Health journal (2).
The first thing researchers noticed about cannabidiol that stuck out to me was that it's effect is bell-curved meaning that large doses become far-less effective than smaller doses(1). CBD is not an addictive or intoxicating substance but it is still interesting that our bodies have an inability to do handle large doses of it. When studying rats and CBD researchers noticed a decrease in anxiety in rats who were previously restrained specifically to induce stress (1). In Humans they found that when CBD triggers CB1r activation (a receptor in our brains) it can enhance fear extinction and can prevent fear reconsolidation(1). In simpler terms CBD can help us push anxious thoughts out of our heads while also helping reduce your brain from thinking about previously experienced high-fear situations (an evolutionary trait that does not help us as much as it used to). More good news for sufferers of anxiety: after their studies researchers stated that CBD can help regulate fear and anxiety. Keep in mind half of the studies they conducted were on rats and their statement contains the word 'can' which introduces possibility and rules out certainty. Before making any decisions let us explore the plant and those who smoke it.
Hawaii was one of the first US states to allow the growing of medical-use cannabis (back in 2000!) so it is fitting that the study we are referencing was conducted with Hawaiian medical marijuana patients. Please note that these patients were prescribed medical marijuana for varying reasons and that anxiety was NOT the focus of the study. When asked if their daily cannabis use relieved feelings of stress or anxiety half of those respondents said yes. Cannabis appears to alleviate pain, insomnia and may be helpful in reducing anxiety(2). Appears and may be are the important words stated here - leading us to declare more uncertainty on the subject. Physicians were quoted saying during this study that while marijuana has not been proven cause any damage of the lungs or surrounding areas, no smoke of any kind is good to inhale and patients should use vaporizer pens. There is no definite take home from this study concerning marijuana and anxiety, researchers clearly state that there simply needs to be more research conducted on the subjects.
Let us break down what we have gathered from these 2 studies: CBD is proven in rats and humans to lower blood pressure and heart rate in forced-restraint situations (1) and that smoking cannabis may reduce stress and may help prevent anxiety in humans. The CBD compound offers no form of abusable high and works behind the scenes to activate receptors in our brain which release or restrain chemicals from entering our blood stream: CBD is the silent killer of anxiety and it does so without harming anything we can study in the body. Smoking marijuana can be extremely helpful for those experiencing chronic pain or insomnia, is it proven to help in those areas by limited studies, but for those experiencing anxiety disorders and are inexperienced with the substance should begin looking for relief in the form of CBD oil drops or sprays.