Many people use medical marijuana to ease anxiety and stress; for some, it works better than medications like antidepressants. In fact, records of Indian folk medicine show that cannabis has been used to relieve a variety of ailments, including anxiety, for thousands of years. With interest growing in medical marijuana, more research is being done to measure whether these ancient uses stand up to scientific investigation.
Therapeutic Components of Cannabis
Two main components of cannabis are THC and cannabidiol. They are focus of tremendous interest and research across many fields. THC is the component most familiar to people and is responsible for marijuana's euphoric effect. The other component, cannabidiol (CBD), is thought to relax the mind and body and is the component medical marijuana producers suggest should be present in higher concentrations in the cannabis used to treat anxiety.
CBD and the Brain
Studies carried out at Vanderbilt University Medical Center suggest that "the natural endocannabinoid system regulates anxiety by dampening excitatory signals." Animal studies indicate that endocannabinoids interact with type 1 cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in the central amygdala of the brain, the area that controls anxiety. Stress and trauma appear to reduce the production of endocannabinoids and the responsiveness of the receptors, causing an increase in anxiety. Because the cannabinoids in marijuana interact with CB1 receptors, it's thought that marijuana's effect on anxiety is a function CBD's interaction with CB1 in the amygdala.
Marijuana and Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety disorders produce a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including muscle pain caused by physical tension, panic, uneasiness, nausea, and sleeplessness. The calming, relaxing effect of CBD counteracts many of these symptoms, while THC has been shown to be effective against nausea.
The preferred delivery method when using medical marijuana to treat anxiety is smoking or vaporizing. In order to avoid the negative effects of smoking, many people use smoke-free vaporizers. These deliver the cannabinoids more efficiently than smoking and allow patients to control the exact amount they receive.
Recent attention on medical marijuana is causing many to re-evaluate its use in treating a number of health problems, particularly those such as anxiety, where it has a history of success.