As marijuana continues its reintegration into Western society, medical cannabis and cannabinoid-based therapies are gaining popularity in the traditional pharmacopoeia. Given that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mood disorder in the modern world (affecting more than a third of the population), it is no wonder that cannabis is considered an alternative treatment.
Treating anxiety with marijuana is far from an exact science, and it's quite complicated. This is because some cannabis products actually induce anxiety, for unknown reasons.
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The "Big Fear": Marijuana-Induced Anxiety Is the Cuckoo of Cannabis Culture
While the anxious effects of cannabis have been recognized in the modern scientific literature for decades, the mechanism is far from clearly understood. The puzzling phenomenon of marijuana-induced anxiety and paranoia is considered the "Bigfoot" or Cuckoo of cannabis culture. That is, an urban legend without foundation but socially omnipresent.
Paradoxically, many cannabis products have been shown to "attenuate or exacerbate anxiety and fear-related behaviors." Fortunately, science and medicine have also captured and isolated the component of cannabis with clearly established anxiolytic properties: CBD (or cannabidiol).
CBD: better than Benzos
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a relatively novel component of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is pharmacologically versatile and has recently received attention for its potent anxiolytic effects, despite its uniquely non-psychoactive character. As we are beginning to observe and understand the wide range of varied physiological and psychological effects that CBD has on the body, its influential effects on emotional regulation are undeniably curious.
In fact, early studies have revealed that cannabis demonstrates activity at the central receptors of benzodiazepines, the same part of the brain on which drugs like Xanax and Valium act. However, while cannabis can act on parts of the brain similar to benzodiazepines and alcohol, it lacks the very unpleasant side effects and life-threatening withdrawal effects that these GABA-egic drugs show.
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CannaCare Doctors Offer Their Professional Opinion on Marijuana and Anxiety
CannaCare Docs' team of experienced and certified doctors also praises and supports the anxiolytic properties of CBD. In addition, they advocate its use as an adjuvant or adjunct to traditional benzodiazepine therapy. In a statement for this article, a medical representative of CannaCare Docs stated, "Cannabis, and in particular CBD, shows great promise as an effective and safer alternative to pharmaceutical sedatives and more traditional anxiolytic drugs."
More and more people are saying "No!" to pharmaceutical drugs and trying CBD instead.
The CBD Revolution
Unlike benzodiazepines, which have become an unfortunate staple of psychiatric care in the modern world, cannabis (and CBD-rich products in particular) lack the misuse and potential for dependence/addiction that benzodiazepines entail.
In fact, patients easily use marijuana as an alternative treatment for various mood disorders. These range from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to generalized anxiety disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, it should be noted that these treatments have varying degrees of effectiveness.
More research required
Marijuana is an extremely diverse medicinal plant that is composed of more than a hundred cannabinoids and several times more terpenes. Not all strains and formulations are considered optimal for treating anxiety. In fact, there is even evidence that some products can cause anxiety and patients predisposed to psychotic behaviors may be at even greater risk.
However, major anxiolytic targets such as CBD have been successfully identified. Millions of people use them daily to relieve anxiety and general depression along with pain, seizures, and sleep disorders.
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The Changing Clinical Landscape of Anxiety Treatment
While further research is needed to elucidate the exact mechanisms by which patients obtain anxiety relief from cannabis, this author believes that the therapeutic index and safety profile of cannabis justify its use rather than more addictive and potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of anxiety.
As the use and sale of legal CBD products increases, it will be interesting to observe how the clinical landscape changes in the treatment of more prevalent mood disorders.