Many people have asked if Marijuana will help with anxiety. Throughout recent years, the legal use and distribution of marijuana has become increasingly controversial, as it is deemed an acceptable substance to legally use in many states across the United States. There are several different reasons why people tend to choose opposing sides in support or opposition to the legalization and medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, and each side has its own defenses and reasons for its stance. Two examples of common arguments that you may find on either side are “if it comes naturally from a plant then it should be fine to consume” and “if it is a mood-altering substance, then it should not be legal to use or distribute to the public”.
Many opposing positions have been taken as to whether marijuana is helpful or harmful to people who find themselves under certain circumstances, including medical and mental health conditions. Some say that it is a healthy way to cope with things like chronic pain, anger, and anxiety, while many others say that it has no medicinal purpose, has detrimental effects on certain conditions, like mood and anxiety disorders, and therefore should not be available as a means to cope.
With so many opposing opinions as to whether marijuana brings about harm, good, or nothing at all, it can be difficult to clear one’s own mind of all of the stances of others and look at the way it affects people on an individual level. One prime example of how the societal views of what is ‘right’ with regard to legal access to marijuana has blurred the lines of its helpful vs. harmful effects pertains to individuals who suffer from anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling in which a person experiences tense muscles, general nervousness, fear, irritability, and an overall uneasy feeling in reaction to an apparent or ambiguous trigger. Anxiety is a feeling that everyone experiences at some point in life, but for many it goes beyond just being ‘a bad case of nerves’. When feelings of anxiety are recurrent, chronic, or have a strong and withstanding impact on a person’s overall quality of life and ability to function, it can be considered appropriate for a diagnosis of ‘anxiety disorder’. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Social phobia
When a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, many aspects of his or her life will be affected. Suffering from chronic anxiety can cause many uncomfortable symptoms that affect different areas of a person’s day-to-day lifestyle, like:
- Work or academic performance
- Socialization skills
- Mood regulation
- Motivation and ambition
- Physical, medical, mental and emotional health and wellness
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Fearfulness or nervousness
- Muscle tension
- Apprehension about the future
- Poor self-image
- Insomnia and sleep issues
- Panic attacks or anxiety attacks
The Social Link Between Anxiety And Marijuana
Throughout the ages, marijuana has developed a reputation for being considered a helpful substance to use to ease symptoms of anxiety. Marijuana is considered to be a depressant, which means that it slows down the speed in which messages are carried through the brain and body. These depressant effects can be attractive to a person who suffers from anxiety because anxiety causes anxious, racing and overwhelming thoughts that trigger feelings of fear, dread, anxiety, and panic.
Many believe that marijuana’s depressant qualities help calm the brain of an anxious person, so their symptoms of anxiety are not as intense. However, medical and mental health professionals have found that rather than relieving anxiety, marijuana actually causes a person’s anxiety to worsen, as it may cause feelings of stress, panic, paranoia, and fear. In fact, medical professionals of the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute have stated that while it may seem like marijuana helps relieves symptoms like anxiety and depressed mood in the moment, the period of sobriety after using the drug will likely lead to more aggravated symptoms, resulting in heightened levels of anxiety, stress, and even depressed moods (National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre in 2012).
The Truth About Marijuana’s Effect On Anxiety
Despite popular belief that marijuana helps ease symptoms of anxiety, it has been found that smoking marijuana when suffering from chronic anxiety will likely actually make the condition worse. There are several factors that contribute to this trend that are often not considered by proponents of the use of marijuana.
Depending on the type of anxiety, severity of the condition, and how each individual reacts to mood altering substances like marijuana, each marijuana user with anxiety will have symptoms that become aggravated from its effects. Some examples of how marijuana can worsen a case of anxiety include:
- Increased prevalence of panic attacks
- Feelings of paranoia
- Depressed mood and mood swings
- Racing, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings
- Racing heartbeat
- Sweats and chills
- Confusion or disorientation
- Impaired judgment and sensory processing
This is particularly true for those who have a history of moderate to severe anxiety and panic attacks. There are two types of scenarios in which marijuana may cause the above listed symptoms in a user who suffers from anxiety:
- If the user gets high using marijuana. During that high, the user’s risk of having aggravated symptoms of anxiety increases. This is because people who suffer from an anxiety disorder respond to substances like marijuana differently than those who do not suffer from an anxiety disorder. This is due to the chemical structure of the brain that makes the user sensitive to anxiety, and how that sensitivity responds to marijuana as a chemical substance.
- When the user begins to come off the high from marijuana. Marijuana is a mood altering substance. It interrupts the natural chemistry of your brain, and causes further imbalance as it is worked out of the system. Since marijuana has depressive the properties, the sobering process from marijuana will result in a further depressed state. Since those with anxiety tend to have exacerbated symptoms of anxiety when they are brought to a depressed state, the sobering up results in more intense symptoms, like those listed above.
Nsight Psychology & Addiction’s staff of professionals can help your loved one with treatment for Substance Abuse, Alcoholism, Trauma/PTSD, Depression, and/or Anxiety. Contact Nsight Psychology & Addiction at 888-557-8091 to learn more. Nsight Psychology & Addiction has locations in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Santa Ana, California but most of our clients travel from out of state to take part in our programs.