If you take a quick trip around the Internet searching for answers about using marijuana to treat anxiety before stopping here, the answers you found were undoubtedly confusing. From bloggers touting the perfection of cannabis products to government officials and others uninformed in the science behind marijuana comparing ingesting to smoking methamphetamine.

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And, yes, there are plenty of opinions to be had, and quite frankly most of them are accurate. How? Well, as with any other cannabis topic, there is plenty of room for anecdotal experience in addition to any available science about cannabis. While cannabis may work wonders for some people’s anxiety, for others it could be the worst thing they could do, possibly exacerbating existing issues or creating new problems altogether.

There is some extremely important information for anyone trying to decide if using marijuana to treat their anxiety. Marijuana can affect every brain differently, so understanding the science behind what is happening is crucial for anyone looking for true relief. But the lack of a finalized study doesn’t mean marijuana can’t or doesn’t help some people with their anxiety, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence displaying the benefits of self-medicating with cannabis.

Young girl covering her face with her hands iStock / seb_ra

The Science Behind Cannabis And Anxiety

As cannabis is legalized and becomes more widely available, the known benefits of specific strains and their applications will only continue to grow. However, there is a surprising lack of literature documenting the effects of cannabis on anxiety. That being said, there are some studies that exist that seem to support the claims that cannabis can be used as a treatment for anxiety.

In a study published in The Pharmacology of Marihuana in 1976, THC was shown to have anxiolytic effects in patients with cancer.  However, more recent studies have shown that in higher doses, THC actually has the opposite effect on anxiety, actually inducing a sense of panic and anxiety in those participating in the study.  An article titled “Opposite Effects of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Human Brain Function and Psychopathy” published in Neuropsychopharmacology hints to THC’s biphasic nature as to why different doses can have different effects on the human body.

A landmark study undertaken by the Washington State University examined exactly the idea at hand here – how did people feel after smoking specific quantities of strains at home. “Their work, published [April 2018] in the Journal of Affective Disorders, suggests smoking cannabis can significantly reduce short-term levels of depression, anxiety, and stress but may contribute to worse overall feelings of depression over time.” The difference between this study and others that have been previously conducted is that subjects were tested while the effects of inhaled cannabis versus orally administered THC pills.

Medical Marijuana Hash oil pills. iStock / smileitsmccheeze

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An article in the WSU Insider explains their findings:

“The WSU research team found that one puff of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC was optimal for reducing symptoms of depression, two puffs of any type of cannabis was sufficient to reduce symptoms of anxiety, while 10 or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC produced the largest reductions in stress.

A lot of consumers seem to be under the false assumption that more THC is always better," [Carrie Cuttler, clinical assistant professor of psychology at WSU and lead author of the study] said. "Our study shows that CBD is also a very important ingredient in cannabis and may augment some of the positive effects of THC."

Self Medication

If you are going to give self-medicating a shot, there are a few extremely important things to keep in mind. First, if and when you visit your medical professional(s), disclose your use of marijuana. These people are not cops and have absolutely no care in the world about you smoking pot, except in how it relates to your medical condition. Second, listen to your doctor if they talk about not mixing or being careful with the two. Everyone’s body chemistry is different, and your doctor may need to watch for specific reactions or have questions about how your medication is working.

Doctor talking to the patient about menopause and treatment in future. iStock / wutwhanfoto

The Stigma

In nearly every community in the country, smoking weed instead of or alongside using pharmaceuticals to treat anxiety still makes the user some kind of degenerate hoodlum. Thanks to this antiquated thought process, there are countless prime candidates for using marijuana to treat anxiety who are turned away by the thought of being stigmatized.

This stigma doesn’t just exist in small town America. Recently, Paris Jackson, daughter of Michael Jackson and generally extremely famous and wealthy person, was attacked on Twitter about her use of marijuana to treat her anxiety, with a user comparing it to meth. The 21-year-old model fired back at the accusation, saying: “Because an organic medicinal plant from mother earth with dozens of healing properties that is legal where i live and used to help suffering people around the world = meth. Instead of taking poisonous addictive pharmaceuticals, this incredible medicine from the earth has been prescribed to me to help with my depression, anxiety, ptsd, and insomnia.” (SOURCE)

Should I Use Weed For Anxiety?

When it comes down to it, you should smoke, eat, or otherwise ingest weed because you like how it makes you feel. For some people that means smoking CBD-dominant strains to help with their headaches. Others use a THC-CBD 1:1 tincture to help them sleep. This writer uses THC-heavy cannabis to treat a number of ailments, including anxiety. So, should you use weed to treat your anxiety? There’s only one way to find out: try!