“Will cannabis make my anxiety worse?” This is the most common question I get from people, especially women who’ve used cannabis before and had a bad experience and are now wary. So let’s take a look at how cannabis can both trigger and treat anxiety and how you can ensure you have a relaxing experience with cannabis.
It has a lot to do with your own chemistry
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a series of receptors that regulates our bodies functions such as sleep, mood, hormones, appetite and more. It’s what keeps our bodies in a state of homeostasis. Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, bind themselves to the various receptors found throughout the body. Depending on your own ECS, the cannabinoid that gets you high-THC can either alleviate your symptoms of anxiety or aggravate it. However it can also depend on other factors such as hormones; for example estrogen can make you more sensitive to THC. Therefore at various points during your cycle when estrogen is higher, you ‘ll need to use less THC.
It’s also about how you’re feeling. Some days I’m more sensitive to THC than other days and that has a lot to do with stress, sleep, diet and hormones. I can tell when I take a small amount of cannabis and it doesn’t feel right, those days I just take CBD. Some days your body won’t be receptive to cannabis and other days it will absorb that plant like nectar, it really depends on various factors and you’ll learn when it’s not a good day for that infused chocolate bar.
It’s possible THC just isn’t for you
Unfortunately, some of you simply won’t be able to tolerate any amount of THC. Some of you may be allergic to the cannabis plant, or the chemistry of your own body simply can’t tolerate any THC. Before you give up though, try different cultivars and brands. There’s some cannabis oils that give me horrible panic attacks even in small amounts and other types that feel good. If you’ve done that and have found your body simply hates THC, try CBD as CBD is an excellent cannabinoid for managing anxiety.
Dosing is everything
“They found the risk of anxiety being induced by marijuana intoxication was associated with the following factors: individual and genetic vulnerability, personality traits, female gender, infrequent use, high dose, high THC/low CBD varieties, history of previous anxiety reaction, presence of anxiety disorder/symptoms, basal anxiety state, abstinence states, and environment and context of use. All other things being equal, THC appears to decrease anxiety at lower doses and increase anxiety at higher doses.”
THC can 100% make my anxiety worse if I’m not careful. I have panic disorder and I can trigger a panic attack if I do too much. I’ve learned how to use cannabis in a mindful way, so I get the best of the plant and not the unpleasant side effects. If I sit there scrolling through my newsfeeds, mindlessly puffing away on my vape without thinking about how much I’m inhaling, I can trigger anxiety.
What’s the right dose?
The number one reason why most people have a bad experience with cannabis is because they took too high of a dose. Just because your friend can eat that 20mg brownie and feel good, doesn’t mean you can.
A recommended starting dose for edibles if you’re prone to anxiety is 2mg to 2.5mg. Start there and if you don’t feel anything (wait at least 2 hours for edibles to kick in) do 5mg *next time and keep going up in small 2mg increments until you find the sweet spot. Also look for edibles that contain CBD as well.
*Wait until the next day to try more THC as edibles last anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to completely wear off.
For inhalation choose a cannabis cultivar that’s under 10% THC and higher in CBD around 5% and up. Look for 1:1 varieties as that will give you a nice balance of CBD to THC.
Always take CBD with THC
New research is showing that CBD helps to reduce the side effects of THC “the research team proposes that CBD blocks the ability of THC to overstimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus and thus prevent its negative side-effects.”
This new research made me so happy as since starting this blog, I’ve been repeatedly saying to always take a good dose of CBD with THC. I’ve found for myself that taking CBD makes THC feel cleaner. Either take CBD in a supplement or look for cannabis products that contain CBD, 10mg and up is a good amount to accompany THC.
Choosing the right product for you
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes a certain cultivar or edible doesn’t work for you, so try a different type. Personally I’ve found indica works better for me, I’ve also found certain cultivars are better than others. For example Kush varieties like Master Kush, MKU and OG Kush are reliable cultivars that won’t trigger my anxiety. Blue dream, wedding cake and Yoda OG are also good ones for me however just because they work for me, doesn’t mean they will for you. Experiment with different types and different doses to find what works for you.
For first time cannabis users, I recommend dry herb vaporizing or low dose edibles. There’s some vape pens (vaporizers that use concentrates) that are low in THC and high in CBD such as the Dosist pens which buzz at a precise dose of 2.5mg. Avoid smoking cannabis as it’s much stronger, can trigger coughing fits and can make you feel jittery.
Terpenes for anxiety
Terpenes are the essential oils of the cannabis plant, giving it it’s unique smell, colour and taste. Terpenes also have their own therapeutic properties. If you can actually find the breakdown of terpenes for the product you’re buying, here are a few that are known for their calming effects:
Limonene: also found in citrus fruits. Not only is this one good for anxiety, it’s also good for depression. Studies suggest it can increase serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
Linalool: also found in lavender and has a nice calming feeling, it also helps with sleep.
Caryophellene: also found in peppercorns is anti-inflammatory and also anti-anxiety. It’s a good one for reducing pain and to help calm your nerves.
Myrcene: also found in mangos, myrecene has anti-anxiety benefits. It also can break the blood brain barrier. Myrcene is one of the more abundant terpenes found in cannabis.
Edibles I recommend if you’re worried about anxiety
Solei Free CBD oil: This has insignificant amounts of THC (unless you’re taking several droppers full) however it’s one of the more accessible CBD products on the market. It’s more affordable than other brands at around $25 a bottle and it has hardly any taste making it easy to swallow. I recommend taking CBD daily and taking a little extra when you’re using THC. This is a great brand for doing both.
Tokyo Smoke Pause: What I like about this chocolate is it’s natural ingredients, it’s an indica variety and it comes in 2mg pieces so it’s good for beginners and for those of you that enjoy a good quality chocolate.
Chowie Wowie 1:1 pineapple mango chews: if you’re not a fan of chocolate and prefer a candy, these chews might be a good choice for you. They come in four 2.5mg pieces with 2.5mg of CBD.
Legend Chocolates: currently they come in four flavours- milk, dark, raspberry and orange. They are small pieces and each piece is 2.5mg. What I like most about this chocolate is the price, they’re priced lower than other brands on the market at around $5 a bar.
Aurora Drift peppermint chillers: something a little different on the market are these small mints with 2mg per mint. You can freshen your breath and get a little THC while you’re at it.
Start low and go slow
Cannabis can both relieve anxiety and trigger it, if you take the wrong dose and the wrong cannabis product for you. Simply try different types and start with a very low dose, like 2mg if it’s an edible and if your dry herb vaporizing, try a 1:1 cultivar that’s under 10% THC.
Setting is also important, make sure you’re in an environment you feel comfortable in, so at home and in the evening or any time you won’t be distracted. This will help you have a good experience and avoid feeling jittery. If you get that perfect dose with the right product for you, you’ll feel relaxed, peaceful and your mood lifted.