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Cannabis and Anxiety: What Does Science Say?

If you suffer from anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental condition in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The disorder affects 40 million Americans every year, so 18.1% of the population! Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety receive treatment: meaning less than half of the impacted demographic. 

Shadowy person at sunset, looking outdoors after consuming cannabis for anxiety

How is anxiety treated?

In addition to pharmaceuticals, therapy, and other lifestyle tweaks, medical cannabis is rising in popularity as a way to manage anxiety. There’s typically no cure for anxiety; it’s just something most people have to live with. Anxiety is an approved condition under various states’ medical cannabis programs, with thousands of patients taking advantage of the budding (no pun intended) industry to improve their mental health. 

Cannabis and anxiety: what does science say? 

Currently, cannabis research is limited, partly due to the plant’s federally illegal status under U.S. law. This means we don’t have many tangible resources supporting cannabis for anxiety. 

Cannabis is considered a Schedule I Substance, meaning it's considered as highly addictive without any potential for medical value. Meth, heroin, and yes, even cannabis, are all on this list alongside each other, holding equal potential for damage in the eyes of the federal government. 

The medical cannabis programs across the country say otherwise, but the impenetrable federal red tape prevents scientists from conducting key cannabis research, legal businesses from utilizing safe banking solutions, and businesses from effectively marketing cannabis products -- creating a gap. 

With that being said, we do have access to some scientific research and anecdotal evidence, which build a strong case for cannabis and anxiety! When it comes to mental health conditions, and anxiety especially, it’s important to consume cannabis the “right” way: meaning the right way for your body and brain. 

A woman dripping incredible Wellness cannabis tincture into a tall glass of lemonade for anxiety

How does cannabis help anxiety? 

If you know anything about cannabis, you probably know some people experience anxiety when they consume it. This is because of the THC in cannabis. THC isn’t bad, but it can cause anxiety in some people. There are a lot of different reasons why someone might feel anxious after consuming high-THC cannabis, including:

  • Simply too much THC for them 
  • Not eating enough before consuming
  • Consuming cannabis in a wildly-stressed state of mind
    • Sometimes, cannabis can bring out deep-seated (or not so deep-seated) emotions we are already feeling, further exacerbating internal stress. It helps to take a few deep breaths and calm your mind as much as possible before consuming cannabis. This way, it can continue the job and further relax you!
  • Genetics
  • Hormones

According to a 2017 report published by the University of Washington, THC appears to decrease anxiety in lower doses and increase anxiety in higher doses. The same report notes CBD to also decrease anxiety in all doses explored. Unlike THC, CBD does not create a psychoactive effect. After consuming CBD, you’ll likely feel more relaxed, focused, and balanced. CBD is most often derived from hemp. 

The federal government removed hemp from the Schedule I Substances list in 2018, effectively paving the way for an exploding American CBD market. However, as we mentioned before: marijuana remains on this list. 

Hemp and marijuana are cousins, both considered to be cannabis plants. The difference? The THC content. Per the 2018 Farm Bill (the bill which removed hemp from the Schedule I Substances list), hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC to be legally sold. Therefore, all of the CBD available to you at the grocery store and online is derived from hemp, so the products you can purchase without a medical marijuana card or visiting the dispensary - like trupura CBD

Here are four key ways to best utilize cannabis products for your anxiety: 

1. Microdose your cannabis

When you think of cannabis consumption, you might think of the typical stoner. Someone chain-smoking four blunts in a row, or spending their entire life high and hazy. When it comes to wellness, being stoned isn’t the goal: it’s simply being well. If you’re consuming cannabis for anxiety, we can imagine your goal is relaxing enough to function throughout the day. 

In this case, you don’t want to be stoned. Enter microdosing. Microdosing is exactly what it sounds like: dosing your cannabis in micro amounts. This way, you’re still reaping the benefits of cannabis, but you aren’t too high to go about your day. Microdosing works by stimulating the endocannabinoid system, just like cannabis in larger amounts. The endocannabinoid system is a biological system every human being has, and it’s how cannabis works in our body! 

Woman microdosing cannabis edible for anxiety

2. Choose products with sedative properties & shop with terpenes in mind

You might hear the words “indica” and “sativa” and wonder what they really mean. Truth be told, in the grand scheme of things, the words don’t mean much. Cannabis is a complex plant, full of different compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. 

Rather, approach it this way: “I’m looking to relieve my anxiety, so I need to find something that will relax me.” This opens you up to a world of potential. From here, you can begin looking at different methods of consumption, dosing suggestions, terpene content, and cannabinoid ratios. Try a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC for anxiety relief, like this Black Cherry chocolate bar from incredibles. 

When it comes to terpenes, they have therapeutic properties of their own! Myrcene, for example, is just one terpene thought to relieve anxious feelings. Read this blog post we wrote about terpenes to learn more; they’re amazing compounds. 

3. Try a hemp-derived CBD product first

If you’ve never tried cannabis before, you might first consider trying a CBD product derived from hemp! This way, you won’t experience any psychoactive effects. You might find you need something more (like THC), or CBD might be just what the doctor ordered.  

Research suggests something called endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome might be at fault for various diseases. Studies like this one ponder endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome’s role in fibromyalgia, migraines, and IBS. Hemp-derived CBD can introduce cannabinoids in your body, gently waking the endocannabinoid system, without overloading you with THC. 

If you think you need THC to start and you live in a legalized state, go for it. We always recommend starting low and going slow until you learn your perfect dose. Pay close attention to how your body feels after consuming cannabis. This way, you can quickly identify how much is too much. 

A woman opening a bottle of trupura CBD Watermelon gummies for anxiety

4. Try a fast-acting product

Fast-acting cannabis products allow you to quickly gauge your tolerance. Traditional edibles can take up to an hour to kick in, sometimes even longer. When this happens, it’s easy to overdo it and regret it just a few hours later - especially when you’re feeling anxious and just want to find relief. Quiq White Chocolates are formulated with rapid absorption technology and like the edible we highlighted above, it offers a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio. 

When you’re learning how much your body can tolerate, it’s best to utilize the rapidness of Quiq and avoid overconsumption. After learning your dose, then consider incorporating traditional edibles like the cherry dark chocolate.  

Ready to try cannabis for anxiety? 

We want to emphasize that we are not doctors. We aren’t qualified to give medical advice, but we sure know a lot about cannabis and we know actual experts who can give medical advice! 

Before introducing cannabis into your wellness routine, reach out to professionals like the nurses at Leaf 411. It’s a free hotline that provides the general public education and directional support about cannabis. There, you can talk through any concerns you might have about trying cannabis. Once you’re given the green light - come and shop with us.

A woman looking to safely consume cannabis, opening a lab-tested edible by incredibles

Cannabis for Pain Relief: What Does Science Say?

Believe it or not, pain relief is the most common reason people seek cannabis! A 2019 study published in Health Affairs showed 62% of medical cannabis patients are looking to ease their chronic pain. 

“We now know that chronic pain is indeed the most common qualifying condition for which people obtained medical cannabis licenses. Given the context of the opioid epidemic and the consistent observational studies that report medical cannabis patients substituting cannabis for pain medications, we now have a better sense of how widespread that practice and rationale may be,” said the study’s lead author, Kevin Boehnke, PhD. 

Woman with blonde hair and pink nails holding her neck in pain before consuming cannabis for pain relief

Cannabis and the opioid crisis

It’s no wonder why people are putting down the pills and picking up the hippie green plant instead. When it comes to abusing opioids, there’s a common justification: “My doctor prescribed me this medication. Therefore, I am not addicted.” It’s an easy lie to believe because your doctor did prescribe you that pill. Why would they give you something that could hurt you? 

It’s important to keep in mind, just because something is prescribed to you by a physician, doesn’t mean it comes without risks. Check out some of these sobering statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about opioid misuse: 

  • In 2019, it’s estimated that 10.1 million people aged 12 years or older misused opioids over the prior year. Specifically, 9.7 million Americans misused prescription pain relievers, while the remaining 745,000 people used heroin. 
  • More than 760,000 Americans have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. Two out of three overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. 
  • The national rate of opioid-related hospitalizations was 297 per 100,000 population in 2016.

A picture of white opioid pills on top of a blue table to demonstrate the potential for cannabis to replace opioids and help chronic pain sufferers

Can I overdose on cannabis?

Currently, cannabis has not been proven to be the cause of any fatal overdose. 

This set of parents, for example, tragically lost their 22-year-old son unexpectedly. They firmly believe cannabis was responsible for their son’s death, as it was found in his system when he died and he was an advocate for the plant. Despite this belief, the examiner who conducted his autopsy concluded cannabis did not cause his death, and doesn’t list it as the cause of death on his death certificate. While experts might point out other side effects to watch out for after consuming cannabis, such as paranoia, racing heart, potentially distorted vision, etc., nearly all of them agree that overdosing on cannabis just isn’t possible. This pair of grieving parents, unfortunately, did lose their son to a heart attack, according to the examiner. 

Shadowy person with curly hair and a long sleeved blouse sitting outside at sunset holding their hand on their forehead to display stress before smoking cannabis to relieve chronic pain

What does science say about cannabis for pain relief? 

So far, the FDA has not approved cannabis to cure or treat any disease, and that includes chronic pain. With that being said, there is an enormous amount of research and anecdotal testimonies that support cannabis for pain relief. This research sparked the installation of medical cannabis programs in over half the country, with surely more to follow! In terms of credible research rooted in scientific processes, here’s what we know about cannabis and pain so far: 

  • A 2016 research paper discovered cancer patients used 64% fewer opioids for cancer-related pain when medical cannabis was integrated into their routine. 
    • This piece of research also notes:
      • Cannabis consumption was associated with a better quality of life in patients with chronic pain
      • Cannabis came with fewer side effects and medications used
  • Harvard University says cannabis seems to ease the pain associated with multiple sclerosis, as well as general nerve pain. 
  • This 2015 review exploring cannabis to relieve pain found several of the conducted trials yielded positive results. The trials focused on patients with chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and multiple sclerosis. “Marijuana or cannabinoids may be efficacious for these indications,” reads the study.  

A White hand holding five beautiful cannabis nugs in an effort to show how cannabis might be helpful in relieving chronic pain

How does cannabis for pain relief work? 

Let’s first talk about cannabinoids like the above study briefly mentioned. Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant; there are over 100 known ones, but you might know the most popular ones as CBD and THC. To keep it simple, THC is the compound responsible for creating a high. CBD won’t intoxicate you, but it’ll give you a lot of the same benefits THC does! 

Once these cannabinoids enter the body, they meet something called the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a biological system every human being has. The endocannabinoid system is equipped with receptors, CB1 and CB2 receptors to be specific, and they interact with cannabinoids like THC and CBD. 

THC fits the CB1 receptor perfectly. You’ll find heavily concentrated areas of the CB1 receptors in the brain stem, spinal cord, nervous system, and other parts of the body. The CB2 receptor engages a lot with CBD, but they don’t directly fit each other like CB1 and THC. Find CB2 receptors in our vital organs, immune cells, the brain, our skin, digestive system, and more. 

Girl with long, dark hair, a white tank top, and jean shorts holding sunflowers and a glass bong smoking cannabis outside to relieve chronic pain

The endocannabinoid system continued

Experts believe the endocannabinoid system is responsible for bringing our body to homeostasis and restoring balance in the areas where we need it the most. That’s why you hear people recommending cannabis for so many different issues: because we have endocannabinoid receptors in basically every part of our body! Cannabinoids are a direct target to those receptors. 

Don’t believe us? We don’t blame you, because you haven’t heard much about the endocannabinoid system. Modern medicine doesn’t talk about it, much less make it a part of their treatment plan. However, universities like UCLA have even devoted an entire research initiative to the endocannabinoid system, with plenty of content to learn from already! We also mentioned Harvard’s opinion on cannabis for pain relief in the above section highlighting credible pieces of research. So yes, the endocannabinoid system exists and there’s thorough research to prove it!

But no, you probably won’t hear about it from your doctor unless you ask. That’s not necessarily the doctor’s fault, though. Cannabis is still federally illegal to this day, despite over half the country legalizing it in some fashion. This makes things infinitely harder for physicians, whether it’s a professional stigma or they simply don’t have the necessary research that federal funding would be able to provide. 

Girl with a white graphic tee standing in a meadow under the sunshine after consuming cannabis for pain

How do I consume cannabis for pain relief?

This is a great question, because there isn’t just one answer! Typically, when people (new consumers) think of cannabis, they think of smoking it. Thankfully, that’s not the only way to get your daily dose of cannabinoids. Smoking isn’t ideal for people with asthma or those who are uncomfortable inhaling smoke. Cannabis is versatile, so the way you consume it can be, too! Here are some of the best ways to try it if you don’t want to smoke:

  • Grab an infused-bite from award-winning edibles company, incredibles
  • Use a topical! Cannabis-infused topical products target the endocannabinoid receptors in our skin to offer direct relief for pain, like this fast-acting Extra Strength Salve from Quiq.
  • Try a CBD product. Hemp-derived products like this chocolate bar from trupura CBD are a great option for people who don’t want to consume THC! 

Girl with long, dark hair and bracelets wearing a short sleeved yellow shirt with white stripes on the sleeve eating an incredibles cannabis edible to relieve chronic pain

Explore different types of pain relief and shop online through Medically Correct! We always recommend consulting with an educated physician who knows your medical history before proceeding. Consider speaking with a licensed, cannabis-trained nurse at Leaf411 for a free evaluation.