About Anxiety and Stress
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older according to the Anxiety and Depression Association Of North America. This equates to about 18% of the U.S. general population every year.
Similarly, stress is another common ailment that can be debilitating. Some studies have suggested that between 75%-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
From the outside, anxiety and stress look very similar; both are associated with excessive worry, sleepless nights, extreme fatigue, poor focus and concentration, and irritability as well as physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, muscle tension, and headaches, back and/or neck pain, sweaty palms or feet, feeling dizzy, digestive symptoms, obesity, high blood pressure, loss of sexual desire, and even heart attacks and strokes.
Stress vs Anxiety
The easiest way to differentiate the two is: Stress can be viewed as a symptom whereas Anxiety can be viewed as a condition.
Stress is your body’s response to a trigger and/or situation. The results can be either positive or negative depending on how your body processes the trigger. For example, when a person gets “excited” the body initiates a cascade of hormones, such as cortisol (the stress hormone), that can enhance your senses to deal with the situation. However, extended periods of high cortisol levels can result in negative effects on the body such as a weaker immune system, insomnia, and increased blood pressure.
In contrast, Anxiety is defined as a sustained mental health condition that can be triggered by stress. Anxiety doesn’t go away once the trigger or threat is no longer in your life. Chronic Anxiety can cause significant impacts in multiple areas of your life.
Medical Marijuana as a treatment for Anxiety and Stress: The Research
There are numerous studies suggesting that medical marijuana can be a efficacious and beneficial treatment for individuals dealing with chronic stress and anxiety. Research studies suggests that THC, a unique cannabinoid in marijuana, has significant anti-stress, anti-anxiety effects, and has potential beneficial effects on the amygdala. The amygdala is the area of the brain that controls emotional responses such as fear and anxiety. THC has also been found to be helpful in cases of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
An important note here: sometimes THC can overstimulate the amygdala, causing the well-known symptoms of paranoia or can aggravate anxiety. Scientists believe that this happens usually when other risk factors are involved. For example, when using THC recreationally rather than medically, or mixing other drugs or alcohol with cannabis. Thus, it is important to work with your clinician on a Start Low- Go Slow approach to medical marijuana treatments.
CBD also has anti-stress and antianxiety effects, and these effects have been suggested by many research studies. In addition, CBD helps counteract some of the effects of THC (i.e. feeling too high or paranoia) and shows potential to manage different forms of anxiety including social anxiety and fear of public speaking, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) is another major cannabinoid, being similar to THC in molecular structure and also has psychoactive (feeling “high”)properties. One study suggests that this cannabinoid also may also have anti-anxiety effects.
A 2018 study found that medical marijuana also helps pain as well as anxiety and depression associated with chronic pain.
It is important to consult a medical professional to better understand the best dosage and treatment regimen with medical marijuana for your stress or anxiety. As you can see above, research has suggested that medical marijuana could be an effective treatment for stress and anxiety, however the symptoms could be made worse if you ingest or inhale too much THC.
At Medical Marijuana Education and Clinical Resources, we are your number one source for all things medical marijuana. Contact us today to learn more.
Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana Michael Backes, Andrew Weil 2014
Medical Marijuana: The Basic Principle For Cannabis Medicine; Aaron Hammon 2017