- 97 million Americans age 12 and up are using it!
- A so-called benign recreational drug available everywhere!
- Over 30 countries allow its recreational or medicinal use!
What Are We Talking About? – Marijuana
Call it Marijuana, Dope, Weed, Herb, Ganja, or Skunk. It is all the same. A celebrity plant people can’t get enough of! But can Marijuana help those with anxiety?
First off, a cannabis plant has over 80 active compounds called cannabinoids. The two most researched cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Marijuana refers to dried crushed flower tops used to smoke. Flower tops are said to contain the highest concentrations of THC. Once cannabinoids enter into the body, they bind to cannabinoid receptors. This binding regulates physiological processes such as appetite, pain-sensation, memory, and mood.
THC makes you feel euphoric! It is a psychoactive drug that acts on the mind. CBD is less psychoactive, and instead, researchers believe it’s involved in brain signaling. A few of its most dramatic benefits include:
- Nausea/vomiting relief for Cancer
- Increase in appetite in Aids
- Pain reduction in MS.
With these benefits, one would never imagine that 16% of all substance abuse treatment admissions in the US are cannabis related; or that over 4 million Americans qualify for a cannabis substance use disorder (CUD). Alarming!!
Within 30 min of taking your first pull off of a marijuana cigarette your eyes turn red, mouth dry as ever and your heart rate starts to pick up. You may feel anxiety, distracted, agitated, paranoia, think differently, experience illusions or hallucinations.
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Lastly, you get the munchies! Although most of these effects are short-lived some cognition changes can last up to 12 hours. Long term effects include five times increased the risk of Depression, risk of Addiction and risk of Disruptive Mood Disorders.
Most alarming is that Anxiety is the most commonly reported effect. Over 20-30% of cannabis users experience anxiety and panic attacks. That risk is crazy high!
The Research Linking Anxiety and Marijuana
A recent study divided 48 participants into 2 groups. Half had Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and the other half were healthy. Each half was further split into either taking a placebo or CBD. All groups had to perform the Simulated Public Speaking Test.
Normally SAD patients do poorly on the test. But those that were treated with CBD excelled. Their anxiety was reduced, cognitive impairment and discomfort when speaking also subsided. Their scores were the same as healthy individuals! That is great news!
*In public speaking scenarios, human clinical trials show CBD helps to reduce Social Anxiety Disorder!
Another group of 48 individuals were conditioned (Pavlovian style) first to receive shocks and second conditioned to forget them (a process called extinction). They measured skin conductance and recorded shock expectancy responses. Those treated with CBD after extinction were able to forget about the painful shocks. Those treated with CBD before extinction found it reduced their anxious responses to shock.
*In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) scenarios CBD is helpful in forgetting the stressful trauma.
A huge meta-analysis, involving 31 studies and 112,000 individuals set out to look for the association between anxiety and cannabis use. They searched for articles on cannabis use, anxiety symptoms and any Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) as classified by the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Both cannabis use and CUD were positively associated with anxiety.
*There is a strong positive association between anxiety disorder and cannabis usage.
Another systematic review regarding cannabis and anxiety found three specific associations; regular cannabis users commonly have anxiety disorders. Those with classified anxiety disorders have a high frequency of cannabis use, and it is still unclear if cannabis increases the risk of developing long-lasting anxiety disorders.
Since anxiety and depression are often seen together, we take a look at one meta-analysis on cannabis and depression. This literature review involved 14 papers, 76 058 participants and were all longitudinal studies (participants were followed for a long period). All of the studies reported heavy cannabis use was highly associated with an increased risk of developing depression. Yikes! Scary!
When it comes to anxiety marijuana would not be my first choice. Its risk is higher than its benefit. Each of you who are thinking of using it as a treatment, please consult your ND. There are other ways to cope with your anxiety! Meditation, Yoga, join a running group, participating in a boxing gym, eat lean, healthy protein, etc. Get out of your mind and into your body. Allow yourself to boost Dopamine and Serotonin, your feel-good hormones naturally!
Hope this article helped demystify some of the myths surrounding marijuana.
Stay fit fab and foxy!
Your Fit Fox Team!
- Bergamaschi et al. Cannabidiol reduce the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naive social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology 2011;36:1219–1226.
- J. A. Crippa, A. W. Zuardi, R. Martín-Santos et al., “Cannabis and anxiety: a critical review of the evidence,” Human Psychopharmacology, vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 515–523, 2009. View at Publisher · View at Google Scholar · View at Scopus
- *Pavlovian style: is classic conditioning method used by Pavlov. A learning process that occurs when two stimuli are repeatedly paired; a response that is at first elicited by the second stimulus is eventually elicited by the first stimulus alone.
- Weinberger AH, Platt J, Goodwin RD. Is cannabis use associated with an increased risk of onset and persistence of alcohol use disorders? A three-year prospective study among adults in the United States. Drug Alcohol Depend. February 2016. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.01.014.
- Advances in Hemp Research author: Paoli Ranalli
- Business Insider November 2016
- NIH 2015 https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol
- IGOR https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358713
- Das et al. Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Apr;226(4):781-92.
- S. Lev-Ran, M. Roerecke, B. Le Foll, T. P. George, K. McKenzie, and J. Rehm, “The association between cannabis use and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies,” Psychological Medicine, vol. 44, no. 4, pp. 797–810, 2014
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