If you or a loved one have dealt with anxiety, you have probably heard that cannabis and other psychedelic plants like kratom have become popular for anxiety management. In particular, as marijuana has become legal in more states, more people are taking interest in its diversity of uses, especially the possibility of lowering stress and anxiety with THC. Typically, THC is preferred for recreational use due to the head ‘high’ it delivers. Although the research has been sparse, there are growing claims that THC may also positively affect mental health conditions like anxiety.
How THC Levels Affect Anxiety
When it comes to THC and anxiety, it’s a game of proportions and dosing. Research indicates that THC produces a different reaction at different dosages. Typically, a low THC dose is well tolerated and stimulates the brain to release dopamine, the hormone associated with motivation and pleasure. Positive feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and sociability can help ward off anxious thoughts and emotions, making THC seemingly useful for dealing with anxiety. Conversely, a high dose is said to cause or worsen symptoms of anxiety. With a high dose, the brain receives more cannabinoids than usual, and this excess supply can overstimulate it, resulting in unexplained fear, paranoia, and anxiety.
So, when you purchase cannabis products from a dispensary, you must be sure to check the THC content. Check the product description and see exactly how much THC is in each recommended dosage. When it comes to THC, less is more, especially for beginners. Since CBD has also been linked to relaxation and anxiety relief, consider opting for marijuana strains with both compounds. CBD and THC tend to balance each other out. A combination of low THC and high CBD or an equal ratio of CBD to THC are more likely to provide relief without other unwanted effects.
THC Addresses the Root of Anxiety
THC is also thought to be helpful with addressesing some root causes of anxiety. Below are some of the ways THC can help relieve common catalysts for anxiety.
Although the research is limited, there have been suggestions that THC may relieve chronic pain. A study evaluating the use of cannabis by patients with chronic pain found that taking THC raised the odds of improving the pain significantly. A clinical trial also supported these findings, reporting that participants who experimented with THC for their chronic pain reported some relief.
It is not clear whether the THC addresses the chronic pain itself or reduces the brain’s sensitivity to pain impulses, but so far, there are strong claims that THC may dull chronic pain and, in the process, lessen anxiety.
Irregular Sleep Patterns
THC is also suggested to help improve sleep patterns for persons with insomnia or sleep disturbances. Sleep and anxiety are correlated because as anxiety affects sleep, sleep also affects anxiety. Anxiety can cause difficulty falling asleep, and anxiety about sleep can cause insomnia.
Underlying conditions may also cause anxiety and sleep problems. For example, persons with chronic pain have difficulty falling asleep, and the lack of proper rest often causes stress and anxiety. A study seeking solutions for these problems found that THC may help improve users’ short-term sleep problems by inducing relaxation, dulling pain, and helping them fall asleep faster.
Research also suggests that THC may improve or reduce muscle spasms for people with paraplegia. Severe muscle spasms, called spasticity, often reduce the quality of life, limit social and functional abilities, and cause distress and anxiety. But research suggests that THC binds to the cannabinoid receptors initiating an anti-inflammatory response that reduces inflammation and spasms. Among the studies that reported this finding is a large systematic review conducted in 2015 that found combining THC with other cannabinoids can improve self-reported muscle spasms better than a placebo. With reduced muscle spasms, users felt less anxious or stressed and more capable to function well in their personal or public life.
Nausea From Chemotherapy
Lastly, THC has been found to help reduce anxiety for people going through chemotherapy by settling the nausea during treatment. Nausea triggers anxiety, and for some, anxiety may cause nausea. It’s a vicious cycle. THC is often used to help quell both anxiety and nausea.
A study conducted in 2016 to reassess the usefulness of THC for chemo patients found that when THC was combined with standard treatment, the patients had a stronger resistance against nausea and vomiting compared to those who only took the standard treatment. These results could explain why two oral drugs containing THC, dronabinol and nabilone, have been used for several decades to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and have seen some considerable success.
A Little ‘High’ For Your Anxiety
THC is typically known for the high it induces, but it can also be used to bring down anxiety. Although the research around this claim is limited, studies and experiments have both suggested that anxiety and the conditions that breed anxiety can improve with THC or THC-based drugs. Even so, when it comes to THC, proportions matter. It’s best to stick to small doses to avoid overstimulation.