How to Avoid Feeling Anxious When Using Cannabis

Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell - Content Writer

Mar 16 2021 - 4 min read

The most common and annoying side effect of consuming medical cannabis products, particularly a high THC concentrate edible, is a creeping anxiety and flush of paranoia that may manifest as you curled on the couch looking with fear at the fish tank wailing silently within, “Why me? Why me?”

The science behind why the psychoactive effects of medical cannabis products can trigger a temporary sense of dislocation and emotional imbalance in a marijuana consumer are mildly complex. The reasons are connected to chemical reactions and imprudent dosage.

The one thing you need to know in answer to “Why me?” is that you need never be a person who is riding out the half life of a cannabis dosage overkill.

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Relieving Anxiety With Cannabis

The irony of being on the receiving end of a medical marijuana anxiety attack is that many medical marijuana cardholders primarily use cannabis for anxiety relief. Marijuana induced anxiety and the soothing effects medical cannabis can have on anxiety are both results of activating the human endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system is a network of cannabinoid receptors arranged throughout the human body. When activated, the endocannabinoid system triggers physiological processes involving appetite, pain-sensation, mood and memory.

The two dominant psychoactive molecules in medical cannabis products, THC and CBD, both readily attach to the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. Heavy concentrations of CB1 receptors in the brain, according to a detailed breakdown of the cannabis-anxiety connection in the Spring 2020 issue of CRx online magazine, are involved in modulating cognition, mood functions, emotional processing and anxiety regulation.

CRx author Bonnie Johnson, director of science at Goodfeeding, addresses the question of whether medical marijuana increases or decreases anxiety? Johnson arrives at an answer of yes to both increase and decrease.

The crux of the marijuana and anxiety balance hinges on the degree of stimulation the brain’s CB1 receptors receive:

  • Mild signaling from THC and CBD molecules that have attached to CB1 receptors induces anxiolytic-like (anxiety reducing) effects.
  • A jarring signaling from a higher concentration of THC and CBD molecules attaching to the CB1 receptors induces anxiogenic (anxiety amplifying) effects.

Low dosages of medical cannabis products are more likely to reduce anxiety.

High doses of medical cannabis products are more likely to amplify anxiety.

CRx magazine’s scientific explanation of whether your endocannabinoid system will dole out emotional calm or lash you with psychic chaos when you swarm its CB1 receptors with THC proves the wisdom of an age old adage to cannabis newcomers: Go low and slow.

Download Guide To Anxiety and Medical Cannabis

How to Reduce the Chances of Feeling Anxious When Using Cannabis

Everything you need to know about cannabis and anxiety starts with one fundamental fact: Newcomers to therapeutic marijuana who move too fast into high doses of cannabis products that contain high concentrations of THC put themselves at risk of a nasty panic attack.

The number one rule to avoiding a medical marijuana freak out is be sure not to take more medical marijuana than your virgin endocannabinoid system can handle.

Particular care needs to be taken when ingesting medical cannabis edible products. Prior to ingesting marijuana edibles, consult your physician to determine the optimum, safe dose to address your health issue while maintaining your mood functions, emotional processing and anxiety regulation.

Do not exceed your doctor’s recommended upper limit of THC concentration. If the cannabis edible seems to be “doing nothing,” just relax and wait. The therapeutic effects of medical cannabis on chronic conditions can be so subtle that the relief will not even be attributed to the medical cannabis product.

A common and avoidable mistake is succumbing to the notion that a cannabis edible is having no effect and that eating another one immediately is what you need to do to make the marijuana medicine work. Don’t do that.

Download Free Guide to THC

What Can You Do if You Feel Like You’ve Taken too Much Cannabis?

If you accidentally ingest a greater concentration of THC than your CB1 receptors can tolerate, and your endocannabinoid system unleashes an emotional tsunami, the number one grounding reality is that marijuana is not fatal. This cannabinoid disturbance, though your mind may tell you it will be permanent, is temporary.

“The best thing to do if it gets too intense,” doctor of nursing practice James Lathrop at Seattle’s Cannabis City dispensary tells Lifehacker, “is to lay down, and hopefully to lay down in a familiar situation.”

Holistic doctor of cannabis medicine Joe Cohen, who runs Holos Health in Denver, Colorado, offers another cannabis life hack: “The best reversal for the unpleasant side effects of too much THC is CBD.”

Cohen admits that taking CBD doesn’t always work for everyone grappling with too much THC. Taking a shower, however, is often effective in restoring a sense of physical comfort and orderly reality. Eating a sandwich, piece of cake or other foodstuffs is also known to level and slow the endocannabinoid tilt a whirl.

Try to keep in mind that 24 hours from the THC disruption, only one day from this very moment, everything will be back to normal.

Download Our 1 Pager Guide to Dosing Medical Marijuana

Cannabis-Induced Anxiety Disorder

New medical cannabis consumers and parents of children who are being treated with medical marijuana products are eager to be informed on the effects of cannabis on mental health. They wonder, Cannabis and anxiety: good or bad?

A January 2020 study titled “Does Cannabis Use Increase Anxiety Disorders?” conducted by psychiatrist Nadav Shalit and Dr. Shaul Lev-Ran admits that, “The scarce data available indicates no clear effect of cannabis use on the course and treatment outcomes of anxiety disorders.”

Shalit and Lev-Ran warn that cannabis use has been associated with increased incidence of anxiety disorders. A higher risk of developing anxiety disorders may exist among heavy cannabis users. However, adjusting analyses to take into account multiple contributing factors makes it impossible to prove cause and effect between cannabis use and anxiety disorders.

Shalit and Lev-Ran conclude that more research is needed into the connection between cannabis use and anxiety disorders. There are a number of medical cannabis users who use cannabis to treat anxiety, and some of the increased incidence of anxiety disorders may be due to improper dosing and a lack of education on cannabinoid science amongst recreational users.

Until that research is in, anyone with anxiety disorders or who feels susceptible to an anxiety disorder should monitor all medical cannabis treatments with the help of a primary care physician. By doing so, you decrease the likelihood of a negative experience as well as increase the chances of treating your anxiety with cannabis effectively.

Written by
Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell

Contributing commentator Allan MacDonell’s work has been featured in publications ranging from Dazed and Confused UK to the New York Times and Washington Post. He is the author of Prisoner of X, Punk Elegies and Now That I Am Gone, and was a founding editorial director at online outlets including Buzznet, TakePart and Kindland. MacDonell views teaming with Leafwell as an opportunity to encourage the emerging role of legal cannabis as a highly effective medical treatment.

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