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Is Cannabis an Effective Treatment for Anxiety?

If you run a marijuana dispensary, you’ve probably been asked a million questions about medical marijuana’s effects. What are the best strains for managing chemotherapy induced nausea or vomiting? What is the best product for helping me sleep? Which edibles give the mellowest and most predictable high?

And, if you’ve been around for a while, you almost certainly have the answers to these standard questions on the tip of your tongue. But how comfortable are you with questions that are a bit less clear-cut? For example, what do you say when a customer asks you “Is cannabis an effective treatment for anxiety?”

Not sure? Read on to find out what the experts have to say.

Anxiety and Cannabis

Cannabis has long been recognized as an effective tool for managing the symtpoms of post traumatic stress. However, it’s efficacy in treating run-of-the-mill anxiety has been less studied, and is a bit less clear. In some users, marijuana actually induces anxiety, although this is mainly a side-effect of high-THC strains. Strains that contain a relatively high concentration of cannabidiol, or CBD, seem to have the opposite effect. In fact, according to an extensive literature review published in the journal Neurotherapeutics in 2015, cannabidiol appears to be a safe and effective treatment for numerous anxiety-related disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social phobia


How It Works

How cannabis works to combat anxiety is still something of a mystery. However, studies in animals show that CBD acts on 5HTA1 receptors in the brain, which are receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Researchers are unclear why, but serotonin is often deficient in people with depression and anxiety. That’s why they believe the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work.

Additionally, CBD is believed to stimulate neurogensis (the formation of new nerve cells) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s important to both thinking and memory. Studies have shown that people with anxiety and depression have a smaller than normal hippocampus, and that successful treatment of these disorders results in an increase in its size. Regular use of cannabis or CBD may well have the same effect.

Long Term Cannabis Use and Stress

Most studies that have looked at cannabis and anxiety have studied acute, or “as needed” use. In these studies, test subjects are asked to rate thier anxiety levels before and after using marijuana to determine how effective or ineffective it was. But in one recent study, researchers at Washington State University examined the effects of long-term cannabis use on subject’s physical and psychological response to stress, even after a period of abstinence.

The study included 82 participants. Forty were daily cannabis users. The others were people who had rarely used marijuana and had not used it at all during the preceding year. All of the participants refrained from using cannabis for 12 to 18 hours before the study began.

In the first phase of the study, researchers asked the participants to rate their stress levels and took samples of saliva to measure how much cortisol it contained. (Cortisol is a physiologic marker of stress.) Then, using standard psychological tools, they subjected the participants to physical and emotional stress. Participants were then asked to rate their stress levels again, and their cortisol levels were rechecked.

The results were somewhat surprising. Both self-reported stress and cortisol levels significantly increased in the non-cannabis group after the test. However, chronic cannabis users showed markedly decreased stress reactivity and their cortisol levels did not increase.

“Based on our findings, the potential effects of cannabis on stress do appear to extend beyond the period of intoxication,” said Dr. Carrie Cuttler, a co-author of the study, in an interview with Leafly. However, she stopped short of stating that a blunted stress response is necessarily a good thing.

Learn More

Whether you’re new to the cannabis industry or a seasoned pro, learning how cannabis can benefit your customers is an ongoing task. New research is being published every day, and you’ll need to stay on top of it if you’re going be the kind of resource your clients need. But learning is only one small part of what you need to succeed. You also need a strong business and marketing plan and a robust insurance program to help you manage risk.

Here at the Carmoon Group, we’re dedicated to helping cannabis entrepreneurs find the best coverage for their business at a price they can afford. So why not give us a call today to discuss your needs? Or, if you prefer, just reach out online and we’ll get back to you at a convenient time.

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Floyd Arthur

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