Doctors who prescribe cannabis for anxiety take great care in selecting an appropriate dosage and strain. This is because using the cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for anxiety can backfire and worsen the symptoms of an anxiety disorder if taken too liberally. Another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD), has demonstrated compelling anti-anxiety effects. This article will explore some of the available research on using marijuana for anxiety, possible side effects and common dosages.
Marijuana for Anxiety
Using marijuana for anxiety relief requires some background info about the drug’s mechanism of action. It may help to understand that the endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that reaches across the whole body and interacts with many physiological processes. THC interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptor. CBD does not directly activate these receptors but among other things, it modifies how well receptors can bind to THC and your body’s own endocannabinoids.
THC for anxiety
A 2013 randomized study sought to understand how THC can help support the memory extinction processes used by practitioners of exposure-based therapy. This type of therapy seeks to provide relief from anxiety by exposing patients to the stimuli that is linked with trauma and fear. This is known as extinction learning. It is used to prevent the retention of fear and anxiety.
In the study, a group of 29 adult volunteers were given either synthetic THC or a placebo. The effects were measured using what is called a skin conductance response.
The group went through extinction learning, and the 14 subjects who received THC showed low skin conductance response scores 24 hours following the therapy. This suggests that THC helped enhance the effects of exposure-based therapy. (Rabinak et al. 2013).
But while the findings of this study are compelling, it is important that discussions about weed and anxiety do not become oversimplified. THC is a powerful psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its high and mood-elevation effects.
Depending on the person, their state of mind and how much they have administrated, THC can lead to side effects such as:
- Panic attacks
- Rapid heartbeat
- Memory issues
- Sleep disturbance
When used under the watchful eye of a medical professional who can predict the response of patients, THC can offer relief from anxiety and other related conditions.
Bottom-line—seek the advice of a licensed doctor who understands the medicinal effects of cannabis so that you can stay clear of these unpleasant adverse reactions.
CBD for Anxiety
It is important to realize marijuana is more than THC. The second most dominant cannabinoid is CBD, and there is double-blind research to also support its positive outcomes for anxiety patients.
A 2011 study gave 24 patients with generalized social anxiety disorder either a dosage of CBD or a placebo. An additional 12 subjects made up a healthy control group and were given no medication. All of the subjects were put through a simulated public speaking test to help trigger anxiety and measure the effects of the CBD against the placebo and healthy control group. The anxiety levels of the participants were measured with physiological measures such as heart rate, skin conductance and blood pressure. Subjective scores using field-appropriate scales were also gathered with the study’s results. The study’s authors concluded that CBD diminished anxiety considerably (Bergamaschi et al. 2011).
THC & CBD Dosage for Anxiety
The following dosages do not constitute standardized dosage guidelines. They are for information purposes only. At Weedwell(TM) we believe that less is more. We believe as with all medications, the minimal dosage needed to achieve the desired effect is the best dose. We also believe in a “start low and go slow” approach. We do not believe that there should be a rush to get results.
To that end, a typical regimen to treat anxiety might look like this for an adult. We would start with a twice a day dosage of 10mg CBD oil administered under the tongue. This can be taken in the morning and at noon. Many clients will opt to simply start here and see how things go. We feel that 2 weeks or so is a good time to consider reassessing and deciding if a dosage increase is warranted. Some people may increase their dosage earlier if they choose.
For people who have a difficult time sleeping we may recommend a combination of CBD and THC oil to be taken before bed. Typical starting doses may be around 5 mg of each.
We try to stay away from vaping or smoking cannabis due to both concerns about lung health and because oil under the tongue provides a longer lasting effect and so we believe it helps people stay asleep longer.
Please remember that this is not a recommendation to use cannabis yourself or that this dosage will be right for you. Before experimenting with cannabis to treat your anxiety, speak to a doctor who can help you identify the right strain, form and dosage.
In terms of which strains may be most beneficial we like to focus more on the cannabinoid and terpene content of the strain rather than the Sativa/Indica question. Still, many clients do gravitate simply toward an Indica strain and find it preferable especially for sleep.
If you are planning to use marijuana for stress and anxiety, we recommend speaking to a qualified doctor who specializes in cannabis medicine.
We believe that a licensed physician is the person most equipped to work with you to assess your mental health and chart a course of treatment with you. This may or may not include cannabis as part of the treatment regimen. It all depends on the severity of your symptoms, things you may have tried in the past, medications you may already be using and your own preferences and life circumstances.
WeedWell™ is a cannabis clinic that can help you every step of the way.
If you are thinking that cannabis may be an option for you, make an appointment to discuss either in person or by secure video.
- Rabinak CA1, Angstadt M, Sripada CS, Abelson JL, Liberzon I, Milad MR, Phan KL. “Cannabinoid facilitation of fear extinction memory recall in humans.” 2013 Jan;64:396-402. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.06.063. Epub 2012 Jul 13.
- Bergamaschi, Mateus M., Regina Helena Costa Queiroz, Marcos Hortes Nisihara Chagas, Danielle Chaves Gomes De Oliveira, Bruno Spinosa De Martinis, Flávio Kapczinski, Joao Quevedo et al. “Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naive social phobia patients.” Neuropsychopharmacology 36, no. 6 (2011): 1219.
- Rabinak, Christine A., Mike Angstadt, Chandra S. Sripada, James L. Abelson, Israel Liberzon, Mohammed R. Milad, and K. Luan Phan. “Cannabinoid facilitation of fear extinction memory recall in humans.” Neuropharmacology 64 (2013): 396-402.
- Zanelati, T. V., C. Biojone, F. A. Moreira, F. S. Guimaraes, and S. R. L. Joca. “Antidepressant‐like effects of cannabidiol in mice: possible involvement of 5‐HT1A receptors.” British journal of pharmacology 159, no. 1 (2010): 122-128.
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