Can Cannabis Replace Anti-Anxiety Pills?
Anxiety is a condition that sadly affects more and more people around the world, now being the most common form of mental health condition. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 40 million sufferers of anxiety, with more being diagnosed every year.
As the drug epidemic across America continues to grow, there seems to be a more significant pressure on the cannabis world to deliver a natural alternative to harmful and addictive drugs. We have seen a rise in the number of states allowing legal use of cannabis for specific medical conditions, and even some who now allow recreational use of the plant.
In 2015, over 8,000 Americans died from overdosing on Benzodiazepine drugs, which are the most common drugs prescribed for anxiety. With such terrifying figures, could it be possible that cannabis could be used in replacement of these anti-anxiety drugs for a safer and more secure future?
Today we are going to be looking into the recent evidence that suggests cannabis could help those suffering from anxiety more than we first thought!
What Actually is Anxiety?
In 2018, more people than ever before have been diagnosed with some form of anxiety, and while it is true that the mental health condition presents itself in numerous different ways, it is almost always the case that a person with anxiety will seek at least one form of treatment.
Anxiety can be sub-categorized into any one (or more) of the following:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Although all of these types of anxiety can come with different and varying symptoms and severity, all of them can be extremely debilitating and make day-to-day life difficult.
What are the Current Treatments on Offer for Anxiety Sufferers?
Sufferers of anxiety usually try at least one, but very often multiple, forms of treatment before finding something that works for them. In some cases, a person can go years without finding a treatment that works well in the long-term.
There are luckily many options available to those suffering from anxiety, from a range of different medications to therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). While CBT is often the most preferred therapy, with results showing that the effects last much longer than any medication, it is also something that many sufferers cannot afford to take part in.
Where CBT is not available, the majority of anxiety sufferers will be prescribed a form of drug known as a benzodiazepine, which is the go-to anti-anxiety med and has many names, some of which you will likely be familiar with:
The problem with Benzo drugs is that they are incredibly addictive and come with a range of adverse effects that can make matters worse for the user. History has shown that drugs that come under the Benzodiazepine umbrella are extremely easy to build up a tolerance to, meaning sufferer of anxiety is required to continuously up their dose to feel any effects, leading to a fatal overdose in many cases.
Can Cannabis Be Used to Treat Anxiety?
Cannabis has been referred to as a destresser for as long as it has been around, with stereotypes boosting the idea that weed is the perfect relaxation method. While many media outlets will dismiss this idea, there is, in fact, a lot of truth in the matter.
Up until this year, there has been a limited amount of research into actual evidence that cannabis can help with anxiety. On the contrary, many believe that marijuana can cause anxiety to become worse, but what is the truth of the matter?
The Science behind Cannabis and Anxiety
Anecdotal reports aside, there is scientific evidence that cannabis works similarly to drugs such as benzodiazepines, affecting the same part of the brain that controls our anxiety levels.
Cannabis contains hundreds of cannabinoids, the most well-known being THC, which gets you high, and CBD, which doesn’t. Not only does CBD not get you high, but it is the compound that is famed for its medicinal properties and benefits.
Research has shown that cannabis affects our brain’s neurotransmitter, known as GABA, in the same way that a Benzo would, except with none of the risks of fatal overdose, and much less severe side effects!
GABA balances out our anxiety levels and helps control how anxious we feel, so if cannabis can in fact help balance out that anxiety in the same way as a Benzo medication, this could be huge for the future of medicine!
Recent Research into Cannabis for Anxiety
There have been two large studies into the area of cannabis for anxiety recently, both of which show great promise for the plant, although things are in their infancy as of yet.
A group of researchers from Washington State University published a case in which they looked at the effects smoking cannabis had on depression, anxiety, and stress. Published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers found that of those who used medical marijuana with high CBD and low THC levels perceived a 50% reduction in depression and a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress following cannabis use.
In a study published in 2017, researchers looked at the cortisol and stress levels of cannabis users compared to non-cannabis users. The study looked at 40 chronic cannabis users and 42 who had consumed cannabis no more than ten times during their life.
Thought to be the first of its kind, this study found that those users who used cannabis every day, or very regularly, showed a significantly blunted reaction to stress when compared to those who did not use marijuana.
For the study to be effective, both the regular cannabis users and those who didn’t use it had to abstain from cannabis use for 12-18 hours before the study. When exposed to high-stress situations, the stress levels of those who did use cannabis regularly were much less than those who didn’t.
While this is certainly promising and could be a great start, researchers aren’t keen to put any labels on these results yet. The long-term effects of blunted stress receptors have not yet been determined.
Do You Use Cannabis for Your Anxiety?
Despite the exciting results of these recent studies, it still stands true that a considerable proportion of cannabis users do so to relieve stress and anxiety. It is a commonly known thing that high levels of THC can exacerbate mental health conditions, meaning many more users opt for high-CBD strains.
We would love to know your experiences of using cannabis for anxiety – has it helped or hindered? Let us know down below!
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