Treating your anxiety with cannabis? Think again.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed lately? It’s not just you. Anxiety is on the rise across all age demographics according to a recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Since 2017, the nation’s average anxiety score jumped 5 points, to 51.
The survey also identifies millennials (ages 20 to 37) as the most anxious generation. They’re also the age group most likely to try cannabis, according to report by The Star. But is lighting up a smart way to deal with anxiety?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the active ingredient in cannabis can ease or worsen anxiety according to a study conducted at the University of Southern California. Most people who partake regularly are familiar with how weed can ease anxiety. THC binds to the brain’s CB1 and CB2 receptors which produces the feeling of being high.
The dreaded paranoia and panic that some people experience is an example of the negative effects of marijuana on the brain. While weed can bring on paranoia in some people, there is little evidence to suggest that cannabis causes people to develop anxiety or panic disorder. Luckily, this weed-induced paranoia is usually temporary and fades after the cannabis leaves your system.
Anxiety ranks among the top five medical symptoms for which North Americans report using marijuana but there is insufficient research to back up their medical marijuana use, according to to a report from McMaster University. “In light of the rapidly shifting landscape regarding the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes, it is important to highlight the significant disconnect between the scientific literature, public opinion, and related policies,” the authors stated in the report.
Studies confirm that weed eases anxiety, but the reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress seem to only be temporary. And, in the long term, cannabis can negatively impact mood.
A compilation of 12 studies conducted on patients with anxiety and mood disorders suggest that frequent and ongoing marijuana-use or self-medication “would likely hurt therapeutic outcomes,” or clinical anxiety treatments, such as therapy.
The authors describe cannabis as “a ‘Band-Aid’ strategy that may temporarily improve acute symptoms while worsening outcomes in the long run” and caution that it is not a viable therapeutic strategy for anxiety and depression.
However, the authors add that pausing or reducing cannabis use to “at most weekly” would “likely improve [therapeutic outcomes].” In other words, using cannabis once-a-week or less may reverse the negative impact cannabis can have on treatment.
While cannabis may be a popular choice for temporary relief from anxiety and depression, there isn’t enough current scientific research to back up that claim. And the long term effects of cannabis on the body and brain are still being studied but the current research suggests that cannabis isn’t a cure-all for anxiety and mood disorders.
It’s unclear if cannabis could be a viable supplement to other treatment strategies. Just as exercise and diet are often recommended to cope with the symptoms of anxiety, weed may be able to provide relief in conjunction with other treatment options.