Recent research discovered that smoking cannabis really can reduce anxiety. U.S. scientists found marijuana regulates both anxiety and the body’s fight-or-flight response. But not everyone is supporting their findings and many claim that cannabis actually causes anxiety. The key here is in the dosage.
Anxiety is a common disorder that causes people to feel distress and nervous. We all experience it on a regular basis. However, some suffer from severe anxiety and this can have a strong impact on people’s life, and can lead to depression and other emotional problems. The good news is that there are many ways to deal with anxiety.
One of the methods is cannabis. Many cannabis users believe it can, which is why they like to smoke it to reduce anxiety. Cannabis users aren’t the only people who think that, many researchers, scientists and doctors also agree on this matter.
Recent studies found that cannabis not only help with anxiety but also have profound effects on behavioral and neural functions, which is why it is often used for treating psychological disorders, pain, lack of appetite and nausea.
According to an international group of researchers led by Vanderbilt University, certain psychoactive chemicals in marijuana have the ability to affect cannabinoid receptors in the amygdala section of the brain. The main psychoactive chemical that helps cannabis users to relax is known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
The amygdala is believed to be responsible for regulating anxiety and the flight-or-fight response. The discovery of how cannabis’ psychoactive chemicals affect the amygdala may explain why cannabis users often experience a reduction in stress and anxiety levels shortly after they smoke cannabis.
Studies report that about 20% to 30% of recreational users actually getting more anxious after smoking marijuana. Dose of THC plays a huge role here. At low doses, THC can be sedating. At higher doses, however, can induce intense episodes of anxiety.
Let’s talk about another compound in cannabis that plays a major role in how your body reacts to it. British researchers including Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya, a researcher in the department of psychosis studies at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, studied the effects of the two main ingredients of marijuana on the brains of 15 young males. It seems that THC (delta-9-etetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) can have very different effects upon the brain. The patients included in this study were all healthy males in their mid 20s who reported that they smoked pot occasionally. Each of them had to ingest either a capsule containing THC, CBD, or a placebo.
What researchers found as a result from visual-cognition tests and brain imaging was astounding. The THC increased users paranoid and delusional thinking bordering on a psychotic reaction. The effect of CBD was almost polar opposite.
What we need to understand here is that the natural endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety and the response to stress by dampening signals in the brain. It was previously known that when a person is exposed to chronic stress, or severe emotional trauma, there can be a reduction in the production of natural endocannabinoids.
When this happens, anxiety levels tend to increase.
Smoking marijuana can reduce this anxiety because the effect of its cannabinoids on the cannabinoid receptors makes up for the reduction in the production of natural endocannabinoids. However, chronic use of the drug can, paradoxically, increase anxiety as the drug reduces the efficiency of the brains’ cannabinoid receptors. This can trigger a vicious cycle that can leave people addicted to the drug.
The study, which was led by Dr Sachin Patel and published in the journal Neuron, also showed for the first time how nerve cells in this part of the brain make and release their own natural “endocannabinoids”.
He said the study “could be highly important for understanding how cannabis exerts its behavioral effects. We know where the receptors are, we know their function, we know how these neurons make their own cannabinoids. Now we can see how that system is affected by … stress and chronic [marijuana] use. It might fundamentally change our understanding of cellular communication in the amygdala.
Because anxiety often occurs during stressful situations, if you learn how to become aware of the causes of your stress, you can prevent anxiety from occurring without the use of drugs. Some great ways to naturally reduce stress are breathing exercise and meditation. Doing simple things that you enjoy doing are also great for getting your mind off of stressful things.