Some studies show that cannabis use can trigger symptoms of anxiety. However, other research shows cannabis, when used correctly, can be beneficial in treating anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, tension, nervousness, or fear relating to a specific event or situation. People with anxiety often also experience some physical symptoms, including an increased heartbeat or sweating.
It is a normal reaction in response to stress or stressful situations. However, if people experience excessive anxiety, which becomes a persistent problem, they may have an anxiety disorder.
Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between cannabis and anxiety.
Cannabis sativa is a plant. People use the flower, the leaves, and even the seed oil, for recreational and medicinal purposes.
While cannabis comprises more than 120 active ingredients and compounds, the most abundant are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In recreational use, cannabis can trigger the following effects and feelings:
- elation or euphoria
- changes perceiving color, taste, sounds, time, or space
- an increased appetite
People who use cannabis can consume it in the following ways:
- smoking or vaping
- drinking it in tea
- consuming it in edibles such as brownies or cakes
- eating it raw
- rubbing a topical preparation on their skin
- consuming capsules or supplements
Aside from the recreational effects, there are several potential health benefits of CBD and THC, including the possible treatment of anxiety.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.1% of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder some time in their lives.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- feelings of worry
- a sense of being on-edge
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- shortness of breath
- feeling of weakness
- upset stomach
- hot flashes
There are limited human clinical trials that look at cannabis to treat anxiety. However, growing evidence, from animal studies to cannabis user surveys, suggests the drug could be effective. This is particularly the case when cannabis is in CBD oil form.
One 2010 study found that CBD oil reduced anxiety symptoms in people with social anxiety disorder. Participants had their brains scanned, revealing that CBD oil triggered changes in blood flow to regions in the brain linked with feelings of anxiety.
These findings suggest CBD oil can help treat anxiety. It also reveals the mechanism of how CBD interacts with the brain to achieve this.
A 2015 review analyzed previous research into CBD oil, stating the vast majority of the research used animal models. However, based on these studies, CBD oil could potentially reduce several anxiety disorders.
These included post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
Human studies are needed to confirm these findings in animals. Furthermore, this research generally only used acute CBD dosing. Therefore, scientists need to conduct more studies to establish whether chronic dosing has similar effects, sustained effects, or both.
A 2018 survey looked at cannabis use in easing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It reveals that medical cannabis users reported a 58% reduction in anxiety and stress.
In addition, females reported a larger reduction in anxiety after using medical cannabis than males. It also showed that high THC and high CBD cannabis gave the most effective results in reducing stress.
In some cases, cannabis use may trigger anxiety.
A 2014 study analyzed the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating neurological conditions. The results show that some people using the drug experienced anxiety as an adverse effect. It also suggests a link between anxiety and higher concentrations of THC.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is a link between cannabis abuse and anxiety disorders.
However, experts do not know for sure if cannabis use triggers anxiety, or if people with anxiety disorders tend to use more cannabis.
The Drug Enforcement Administration also state that cannabis use can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
If people do not wish to take cannabis to relieve anxiety, there are several alternative methods to help with symptoms. These include:
- remaining active and engaging in regular exercise
- reducing alcohol consumption
- reducing caffeine consumption
- eating a healthy diet
- psychotherapy or counseling
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- medication, such as antianxiety medication, beta-blockers, or antidepressants
Cannabis, particularly in CBD oil form, holds promise in easing short-term symptoms of anxiety.
However, people should note that more human studies are needed to prove these findings definitively. There are also few studies looking at the long-term efficacy of cannabis on anxiety.
In some people, the use of THC, particularly in high doses, could also trigger anxiety symptoms.