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Despite the controversy that has surrounded marijuana in the United States since the 1950s, its medicinal value is difficult to refute. Marijuana studies have consistently supported the benefits of medical cannabis in the treatment of many conditions, such as glaucoma and the post-chemotherapy nausea associated with cancer. Due to a renewed interest in the medicinal value of marijuana, no doubt due to its increased legality in the past several years, researchers are working to answer the question: “Does marijuana help with anxiety?” The effects of marijuana on anxiety are still being studied, but so far, it can be safely said that, at least for some anxiety sufferers, the relationship between marijuana and anxiety is promising. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) stated that using marijuana for anxiety relief is the most common self-reported reason for marijuana use. Though still a legal grey area, the relationship between anxiety disorder and marijuana is finally getting at least some attention.
When considering marijuana treatment for anxiety, people have numerous questions: “Does marijuana help anxiety attacks? Can marijuana be prescribed for anxiety? How does one get a marijuana prescription for anxiety?” Once a full-blown anxiety attack has started, it is extremely unlikely that marijuana will help, but it may help to stop attacks before they happen. Because of the drug’s controversial nature, many doctors are hesitant to recommend or prescribe marijuana anxiety treatment, especially since many doctors are unsure of exactly how to use marijuana for anxiety. Studies have shown, however, that younger doctors, who are more often open to non-conventional and new treatment, are more likely to consider prescribing marijuana or marijuana oil for anxiety.
The term anxiety is used rather loosely in the medical field and associated with several more specific conditions. The main types of anxiety, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), panic disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder.
Many wonder, “can marijuana cure anxiety?” The answer is no; there are no magic marijuana pills for anxiety. Others wonder, “can marijuana help with anxiety?” The answer is yes, but it is not right for everyone. For many, using marijuana to treat anxiety is effective, but whether using medical marijuana for anxiety will help any one individual depends on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder, the personality traits of the individual and the chemical composition of the specific strain of marijuana for anxiety relief.
There are two main chemicals in marijuana: Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Of the two, THC is considered responsible for the psychoactive euphoria that recreational users seek. Unlike THC, CBD is not considered psychoactive and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, “13 states have statutes recognizing cannabidiol for medical use.” Many studies have concluded that high doses of THC can exacerbate or even bring about anxiety, but lower doses of THC coupled with moderate to high CBD can help treat certain types of anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronic stress, tension and constant worrying resulting in anxiety, especially when there is little or no logic behind it. Marijuana for generalized anxiety disorder, especially milder cases, is quite promising. Sufferers of GAD seem unable to relax. GAD is closely related to the human instinct known as the fight-or-flight response. When a human senses danger, the body actually responds physiologically, preparing itself for a survival situation. The adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys, increase the production of adrenaline into the bloodstream, which increases the heart rate. In people with GAD, however, this response triggers in situations that do not call for it. The symptoms of GAD are consistent with those of excessive adrenaline: rapid heart beat, sweating and chest pain caused by hyperventilation. For many with GAD, the right marijuana for anxiety in the right doses might help.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a kind of anxiety disorder having to do with unwanted, repetitive thoughts (obsessions) or behaviors (compulsions). The NIH claims that people with OCD carry out compulsions, or “rituals”, such as excessive hand washing, counting and cleaning, in the hopes of reducing anxiety. The NIH also stated that anxiety increases substantially when these compulsive actions are not performed. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done on OCD, but it is believed thus far to be caused by abnormalities in certain areas of the brain, specifically the frontal cortex and subcortical structures. Because so little is known about OCD, very little research has been conducted about how marijuana helps anxiety caused by OCD.
Panic disorder could be broadly described as a more severe form of GAD. Instead of a mild, constant worry, sufferers of panic disorder experience sudden, uncontrollable bursts of fear, also known as a panic attack. For people with panic disorder, Panic attacks are sudden and severe. The American Psychological Association (APA) stated that people experiencing panic attacks often believe they are having heart attacks and seek emergency medical services. Unlike other anxiety disorders, it is unlikely that using marijuana to treat anxiety caused by panic disorder will be effective, due to the rapidity and intensity of the attacks.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is just what it sounds like: the psychological stress caused by traumatic experiences. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs stated that the leading causes of PTSD are military combat, car accidents, sexual assaults and natural disasters. It remains unclear exactly how medical marijuana and anxiety caused by PTSD are related, but many veterans swear by the benefits of marijuana for anxiety from PTSD.
Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety when it comes to social situations. For some, however, this anxiety is excessive and harmful. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), social anxiety disorder is “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.” When it comes to medical marijuana social anxiety, its effectiveness will vary between individuals. To reduce the risk of adverse effects of medical marijuana for anxiety treatment, it is wise to start with a strain low in THC and begin with very low doses; this will reduce the risk of exacerbating the anxiety. Researchers are currently studying social anxiety and marijuana, and it is likely that marketable progress will be made in the coming years regarding medical marijuana for social anxiety.
Make no mistake, anxiety and medical marijuana is a promising field. Medical marijuana and anxiety disorder is still being studied, and the merit of marijuana use for anxiety analyzed. If considering medical marijuana anxiety disorder treatment, one should talk to his or her doctor and discuss the available options. One thing is clear: Marijuana and anxiety relief are closely related, and anxiety treatment with marijuana is far from a fad. Those looking to use marijuana social anxiety or GAD should at least look into marijuana as a natural alternative to the conventional and highly addictive narcotics most doctors currently prescribe.
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