Marijuana is having a moment. 62% of Americans support legalization on a federal level, double the support it garnered less than twenty years ago. Recreational marijuana use is currently legal in ten states with many more allowing for the sale of CBD products. Canada legalized it. Uruguay legalized it. At home and abroad the tide is clearly turning and that has led to an explosion of interest. Marijuana’s new acceptance and popularity is attracting thousands who never would have considered it a generation ago. While a couple of hits or half a cookie may seem harmless, all those jokes about paranoia are rooted in very real experiences. Anxiety is common and in rare cases that anxiety can lead to panic attacks. If you suffer from marijuana induced anxiety or are concerned about it going in, it’s important that you understand what you’re buying, how to prep for an enjoyable experience and what to do when negative feelings creep in.
Marijuana for Anxiety: CBD vs. THC
Marijuana (or cannabis) has been used by human societies for a variety of reasons for more than 3000 years. It contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids that interact with endocannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. There are 100+ cannabinoids present in marijuana but only two relevant to this discussion.
- CBD: a non-psychoactive cannabinoid with many medicinal benefits including treating generalized pain and inflammation as well as stress and anxiety.
- THC: The psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its extra curricular benefits. The higher the THC, the more pronounced the psychoactive effects are.
Most dispensaries test their products' potency of THC and CBD levels. If you're prone to anxiety, choose a cannabis product with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD.
The Best Marijuana Strains for Anxiety: Indica vs. Sativa
Marijuana strains are generally categorized into two main types: Indica or Sativa (or a hybrid of the two). The common wisdom is that Indica strains of marijuana produce a heavier effect on the body while Sativa strains have a headier effect. The specific benefits of each include:
- Mental relaxation
- Muscle relaxation
- Pain reduction
- Increased appetite
- Recommended for nighttime use
- Treatment of chronic pain
- Increased focus and creativity
- Recommended for daytime use
For anxious consumers, a CBD dominate Indica strain such as Charlotte's Web or ACDC seems like the clear choice but THC affects everyone differently so you may need to experiment in order to find your ideal CBD-THC balance. Regardless of your preference it is important to remember that THC does not cause anxiety, it simply exacerbates pre-existing internal and external factors.
Why am I still freaking out!?
Simple. You were off balance going in. Internal and external factors play a huge role in marijuana induced anxiety. We’ll get into the specifics below but a good rule of thumb is: an anxiety free life makes an anxiety free high.
Moodiness, poor-nutrition, lack of sleep and self-doubt are all potential triggers for marijuana induced anxiety. You’re never going to feel perfect pre-usage but there are few simple pairings that can help you smooth out the experience.
- Marijuana + Meditation: before you smoke or nibble run through a simple meditation session. 5-10 minutes should be plenty.
- Marijuana + Kava: kava root tinctures are fast-acting and can help you mellow-out the unwanted effects of THC like anxiety and paranoia.
- Marijuana + A Good Meal: This isn’t about monitoring your high, it’s about energy levels, nutritional balance and eliminating potential sources of negativity.
External influences are highly personal. Your perfect location, playlist and circle of friends might send someone else straight into a paranoid tailspin. Know yourself, know your friends and don’t budge.
- Location, location, location: Put yourself in a comfortable place; unfamiliarity can be disorienting.
- Don’t talk to strangers: THC might make you a social butterfly but for most the bigger the group the higher the odds of marijuana induced anxiety.
- Don’t bottle it up: Marijuana induced anxiety can feel intensely personal but everyone has experienced it. If you’re with friends, confide in someone you trust. Tell them what you’re feeling. Their supportiveness and the act of getting it off your chest can often be enough to shake off the negativity.
- Stick to the plan: Once you know what works for you be firm about your approach. “Come on! It’ll be fun!” often isn’t.
I’m not freaking out, I’m PANICKING!
Panic attacks are often due to over-consumption. No judgement! Marijuana is stronger than ever and edibles have a tendency to sneak up on you. The warning signs that anxiety has shifted to panic include:
- Racing heartbeat
- Feeling physically weak
- Feeling faint and/or dizzy
- Cold/clammy/numb hands and feet
- Sweating or having chills
- Chest pain
- Breathing difficulties
- Tunnel vision
Marijuana induced panic attacks can be a scary experience but they cannot hurt you. They are the result of your fight or flight response being kicked into high-gear. You can ride out the perceived threat (panic attacks rarely last more than 5-10 minutes) or you can perform a manual override. A few minutes of concentrated deep breathing will reset your nervous system and help you move past the worst of it.
- Use an herbal tincture with Kava Root to quickly calm your nervous system.
- Breath in deeply through your nose—five seconds minimum.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth.
- Focus on your surroundings and away from negative thoughts.
Marijuana is not for everyone
Marijuana is medicine. Marijuana is a culture. Marijuana is fun. If you choose the right strain, control your internal and external influences and limit your intake chances are you’ll learn to enjoy marijuana free from feelings of anxiety or panic. If not, be willing to admit that marijuana is not for everyone. CBD isolates and low-level THC products are still an option and marijuana isn’t nature’s only escape.
Do you have any advice for dealing with marijuana induced anxiety? Comment below!
- Read more: How-To Combat Cannabis Induced Anxiety