Treating Anxiety: Marijuana or CBD?
An estimated one in three American adults experience some type of anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Anxiety has been on the rise worldwide, and there is no single cure on the market that can tackle the multifaceted issue. Everyone needs a sense of anxiety to be healthy and safe—anxiety helps us identify dangerous situations and protect our wellbeing—but too many of us experience disproportionate anxiety that interferes with our everyday activities, our performance at work or school, our productivity, and our relationships.
Therapy and pharmaceuticals are some of the first choices to combat inhibitive anxiety, but there are other solutions. As state laws relax on medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, more people are beginning to explore the benefits of marijuana and CBD for decreasing anxiety symptoms. People struggling with chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have claimed that they experience fewer symptoms of anxiety when using cannabis.
Cannabis still needs more scientific research. Some reports have started to emerge exploring anxiety and cannabis, in addition to the anecdotal evidence of positive effects some people have experienced, but at present, studies have not yet been undertaken to compare the effects of marijuana and CBD for treating anxiety.
One study of data collected through Strainprint (a medical cannabis app that allows users to track the severity of their symptoms as well as the strains and dosages they are using) found that cannabis users rated their stress, anxiety, and depression significantly lower after a dose. Two puffs alone were sufficient for people to reduce how they rated their symptoms of depression and anxiety. The sample size was fairly large: the study analyzed 11,953 tracked sessions, with 5,085 for anxiety and 3,717 for stress (symptoms for both decreased by 58%) and 3,151 for depression (symptoms decreased by 50%).
The researchers found that the ratio of THC to CBD in the strains used showed some correlation with different types of symptom reduction. Depression decreased the most when THC levels were low and CBD levels were high. Stress decreased the most when both THC levels and CBD levels were high. Anxiety reduction did not correlate with a specific THC–CBD ratio, according to this study.
Cannabis should never be used lightly, however, since some users find it spikes their anxiety rather than reducing it. There is not yet sufficient research regarding dosages, strains, and the effects of cannabis to confirm how individuals should best use it medicinally, but research is being conducted. Experimental studies with animals have shown that THC increases anxiety, whereas CBD tends to reduce anxiety; this corroborates what individuals have reported in their own use.
Early evidence suggests that CBD oil, which lacks THC, can help reduce anxiety. A 2015 review of the published scientific literature indicates that CBD could be an effective treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD. Since then, researchers have investigated CBD’s effect on sleep and anxiety: they assessed the medical charts of 103 psychiatric patients who had received, along with their standard treatments, CBD for their sleep complaints and anxiety. The final analysis involved 72 of those patients over the course of three months, and the findings showed that anxiety scores decreased for about 80% of the patients in the first month, then those lower rates held steady throughout the rest of the study. All but three of the patients tolerated CBD well.
There is still no consensus regarding whether CBD or cannabis is the better option for anxiety, but the current studies support the idea that CBD is more reliable in providing anti-anxiety effects. Speaking with a doctor is still best before experimenting with cannabis or CBD to treat anxiety, but the options for reclaiming your life from anxiety are expanding by the day!
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