Can Cannabis Relieve Anxiety?

January 19, 2022
Can Cannabis Relieve Anxiety?

What Is Anxiety?

In Aesop’s The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, the latter hurriedly flees a luxurious but chaotic dinner at the former’s home, exclaiming, “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety!” Some of us mice may be lucky enough to have a bolt-hole in the country to escape to, or a home by the sea, when the stresses and strains of modern life become too much. But anxiety, defined by Webster’s dictionary as “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness”, doesn’t always stay where we left it. It follows us, lives inside us, invites itself to our table - wherever we may be. The novelist Patrick Ness vividly describes anxiety as something monstrous, as “a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous.”

Anxiety is both a physical and emotional phenomenon: the ‘fight or flight’ hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body when we feel anxious, raising our heart rate and causing rapid, shallow breathing. These physiological responses are helpful when we are faced with a genuine threat – more oxygen in the blood means an enhanced physical response. But when these changes in our body last significantly longer than the appropriate window of reaction to danger, they can lead to a variety of distressing outcomes such as stomach complaints, headaches, insomnia and depression. In many of us, anxiety can become a burdensome long-term condition, rather than a short-lived survival mechanism. 

The American Journal of Managed Care estimates the annual cost of anxiety disorders to be between $42.3 billion and $46.6 billion, “of which more than 75% can be attributed to morbidity, mortality, lost productivity, and other indirect costs.” Unmanaged anxiety is as expensive to the state as it is miserable to the sufferer. As St Augustine wrote in the Confessions: “The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.” 

How Cannabis Helps

When we suffer from anxiety, we ideally seek to manage its symptoms while working towards solutions to the challenges triggering our worries. In order to reach a feeling of equilibrium, where our real or perceived problems feel manageable again, we need the calm that comes from relaxation and restful sleep. Cannabis is known to promote calm, giving us access to the therapeutic tools that can lead to self-healing. But how does it work?

In order to maintain homeostasis, our internal state of physical equilibrium, the body utilizes a complex cell-signaling process known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Out bodies naturally create endocannabinoid molecules, which bind to receptors in our central and peripheral nervous systems when homeostasis is disrupted by illness, injury or emotional distress. Simply put, the ECS behaves like an emergency call-out service within us, responding to crises in the body whenever needed.

The cannabis plant also contains two important cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that creates the ‘high’, and cannabidiol (CBD), which triggers positive responses in the body without the high (or the other potential side effects of THC such as paranoia or anxiety). While THC is understood to bind to cell receptors, mimicking the effects of our own endocannabinoid system, CBD is believed to instead modify the receptors' ability to bind to cannabinoids, and also prevent them being broken down by enzymes in the body - allowing them to have longer-lasting beneficial effects, such as the feeling of wellness and serenity that results from a holistically-balanced mind, body and spirit.

There is speculation in the scientific community that some people may also suffer from a condition called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, for which CBD would seem to be a safe, logical and natural solution.

Using Cannabis Oil to Reduce Anxiety

Research suggests that a low daily dose of 50 to 75mg of CBD oil a day can reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality within a month. It can be taken by mouth in oils and tinctures from dropper bottles, in chewable gummies, or in capsules, sprays or vapes. Unlike THC, CBD is understood to produce little if any side effects, and is deemed safe by the World Health Organization.

It is worth thinking about the type of anxiety you need relief from when considering these options. For example, vaping releases CBD into the bloodstream more quickly than the ingestion of oil or gummies, so may be the preferred method of consumption before anxiety-inducing scenarios such as public-speaking or social interaction. When seeking restful sleep, or day-to-day calm and relaxation, ingestion may prove more appropriate. Start on low doses, and keep a journal of your body’s response; while doses as high as 600mg of CBD a day have been proven efficacious in the treatment of post-traumatic disorder, for example, a much lower dose of as little as 25mg may be a sensible (and much less expensive) starting point.

You can escape that “feeling grown too large”. Like our wise country mouse, flee to the seaside, or countryside, or local park when you can. Eat sensibly, exercise, meditate, journal, and seek out positive people and interactions to assist in your quest for relief from anxiety. And add CBD to this balanced and holistic template, and live the anxiety-free life you thoroughly deserve.

Dogs & CBD

Did you know that CBD can also help your beloved pet? You can find out more here.

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