Many medical authorities define anxiety as the most common mental health concern in the United States. Despite the fact that one out of every four Americans will experience some type of anxiety disorder in their lifetime, it’s arguably one of the most misunderstood conditions there is. It’s a mental condition with physical symptoms like dizziness, difficulty breathing, knots in the stomach chills and restless legs to name just a few. Since everyone experiences these types of symptoms at some time or another in their life, it’s easy for people who have never experienced anxiety to dismiss the seriousness of the condition. Advice like “suck it up” or “pull yourself together” inevitably has the opposite effect on an individual struggling with anxious thoughts or feelings.
There are a host of medications out there to help people handle their anxiety better but what about cannabis? Can a substance that’s been associated with “paranoid stoners” actually reduce anxiety? To answer this question, we once again call upon our friends at Green Nurse Group. GNG is “an action oriented, non-profit organization of dedicated professionals and nurses who seek to relieve suffering via the safe use of medical cannabis and other natural, holistic therapies”. In addition to sharing their expertise about cannabis and anxiety at their office, Green Nurse Group has also led presentations with our patients on the benefits of cannabis for exercise and cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy. We truly appreciate GNG’s willingness to share their knowledge with us so we can share it with you.
Before we get into how cannabis reduces anxiety, let’s talk about what anxiety is
There are five types of anxiety disorders with different symptoms:
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Are you prone to excessive irritability at minor inconveniences or prolonged irritability you just can’t shake? Do you feel chronic apprehension or nervousness all the time? Do you feel panic attacks where your heart races beyond your control? Do you not leave the house or avoid places that may trigger these kinds of feelings? If so, you could be suffering from General Anxiety Disorder.
Panic Disorder: A panic disorder is a 2-10 minute burst of overwhelming anxiety or fear followed by physical feelings of pain, nausea or dizziness. After the somatic symptoms subside, some panic attack sufferers experience bouts of forgetfulness.
Social Anxiety: This condition involves feelings of extreme agitation in social situations such as work, school or any public place.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): A vicious cycle of unwanted thoughts that a person attempts to cease by repeating behaviors or rituals like counting, meticulous organizing or cleaning.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): People suffering from PTSD experienced intense emotional trauma from a situation that the re-experience in the form of a flashback. This can result in long-lasting anxious response and emotional numbing.
What is the physical impact of chronic anxiety?
When your brain is stressed, it releases hormones that trigger the “fight or flight” response in your body. In this frenetic state, your heart rate accelerates, your muscles tense and your digestive system slows way down as your body directs all of its energy toward defending against the perceived “attack”. This chaotic situation has several physical consequences including:
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Weight gain
- Muscular tension
- Endocannabinoid imbalance
Traditional treatments of anxiety
There are several ways to cope with the disorders and resulting physical ailments we described above. With psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, patience work with a counselor to talk through their anxieties and find ways to change their daily routines, life habits and coping mechanisms. Working with a psychiatrist involves similar structured, one-on-one conversations with the possibility of having medications prescribed to assist the process. Other patients choose home remedies such as aromatherapy or the application of essential oils that can have a soothing effect on the mind as well as the body. Vigorous physical exercise and stretching exercises like yoga can also have a positive impact on anxiety through the release of endorphins. The same goes for meditation, massage, chiropractic care and acupuncture.
How cannabis reduces anxiety
THC and CBD are key ingredients in cannabis and both attach to cannabinoid receptors throughout the body and modify nerve action. Both of these chemicals trigger reactions in the body that can minimize the “fight or flight” state and help your body and mind return to a calmer and healthier state. Examples include increasing appetite, relieving nausea, lowering blood pressure and reducing pain.
Specific strains of cannabis that GNG recommends for the treatment of anxiety include:
- Jack Herer
- Strawberry Cough
- Amnesia Haze
- Granddaddy Purple
- Northern Lights
- Blackberry Kush
Recommended cannabis dosing strategies for the treatment of anxiety
The nurses at GNG suggest starting with one symptom and one product as part of their “start low and go slow” strategy. Once you make a selection, use the same dose for several days before increasing. Ask your Patient Advocate about micro-dosing and self-titration. Experiment with different ratios, cannabinoids and terpenes and be sure to keep a journal of how much you use, the times of day you use it, how you feel and any other variables. It’s always a good idea to hydrate before you medicate and increase healthy dietary fat intake.
No matter what type of anxiety you’re dealing with, the trained Patient Advocates at Revolutionary Clinics will listen to all of your experiences and spend as much time as you need to find the right product to begin your cannabis wellness journey. To start the conversation, please give us a call at 617-213-6006.