cannabis and self-care

A Guide to Cannabis and CBD for Anxiety

Learn the research and use of cannabis and CBD for Anxiety. Anxiety is one of the most common disorders in Canada impacting more than 12% of the population annually and at least 25% of the population experiencing symptoms consistent with an anxiety disorder at least once in their lifetime.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiousness and worry are a normal aspect of every person’s life. The severity of the anxiety or worry thoughts varies between individuals, and so does our ability to manage day-to-day anxieties. Anxiety is considered a disorder when it becomes excessive and difficult to control, and persists for an extended period of time, typically six months (as defined by the DSM-5).

Anxiety is characterized by these symptoms:

  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Tiring easily
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep). (source)

Note that General Anxiety disorder is not the only way in which anxiety manifests. Some others include; panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many of the symptoms mentioned previously are shared among anxiety disorders although each also comes with their own characteristics. 

Traditional Treatment for Anxiety

Traditionally, Anxiety Disorders are treated with a combination of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and medications. There are two types of medications used to treat anxiety; 1. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and, 2. serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). As is common with many medications they have a number of side effects and often have diminishing returns; therefore, cannabis has been researched for its anxiolytic effects. 

When talking about mental health it’s important to note that cannabis is not a replacement for treatments such as therapy. Cannabis can be used effectively in conjunction with traditional therapies, including medication, for improved symptom management.

If you’re considering using cannabis to manage anxiety symptoms consult with a doctor before discontinuing any current medications or therapies or adding cannabis to any current medications. Also, read this article on cannabis and drug interactions

Treating Anxiety With Cannabis 

Some claim that cannabis, particularly THC, can increase a person’s anxiety and for some this may be true. Therefore, it is important to:
(1) start with a low dose
(2) consult a doctor about your treatment plan and
(3) pay close attention to what types of cannabis products you’re consuming. 

There is a different therapeutic effect on anxiety between THC and CBD products. Both interact with the amygdala in the brain which affects a person’s stress response, but CBD more reliably decreases this response. While THC can have the same, or similar effects, studies suggest there may be a ‘tipping point’ for THC and too much may increase anxiety in some people (source)(source).

What kind of Cannabis is Best for Anxiety: Indica or Sativa?

Research suggests that CBD is more reliably effective in managing anxiety-related symptoms; therefore cannabis strains that are higher in CBD would be the most appropriate choice. Generally speaking, sativa’s are higher in THC, while indica’s are higher in CBD. Though researchers are uncertain as to whether or not pure indica or sativa truly exist, so be aware of your strain choices and always start with a lower dose when trying a new strain. 

Leafly has a great guide for determining which strains may be best for anxiety and other common mental health-related symptoms. This guide can help you have a better idea of what strains may be most effective and what to look out for at your local dispensary. Give these a try and see how they might be able to work for you. 

CBD for Treating Anxiety – What the Research Says

Researchers have begun to look at the endocannabinoid systems’ role in the management of anxiety to better understand the impacts of cannabis on anxiety. So far they’ve found the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in our ability to react appropriately to fear, is linked to our stress resilience, and our ability to maintain emotional homeostasis.

A 2013 study, tested CBD’s impacts on the conditioned fear response in humans. Forty-eight participants were conditioned with a fear response in one context and responses were extinguished in a different context. CBD was administered either before or after extinction. After 48 hours participants were exposed to the conditioned context before and after the reinstatement of the conditioned response. CBD administered post-extinction enhanced consolidation of extinction learning and CBD administered at both times produced trend level reduction in the reinstatement of responses. This suggests that CBD could be helpful in extinction-based treatments for anxiety disorders like phobias and PTSD

Another 2013 study, found repeated treatment with CBD over time creates anti-panic effects in initial animal trials. Though it’s interesting to note that acute treatment of CBD did not appear to have the same effect in this trial.

A 2011 study, used a simulation public speaking test on 24 previously untreated participants with social anxiety disorder to determine the effectiveness of anxiety. Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance.

Anxiety, CBD and Neural Regeneration

Chronic anxiety and stress can damage neurons in the brain which contributes to the impacts individuals experience with stress as it impacts them over an extended period of time. Our brains have the natural ability to regenerate and we are continually building new neurons and neural connections in the brain. Studies have shown CBD can accelerate the process of neural regeneration; therefore, shows promise in the long-term treatment of chronic anxiety.

Anxiety, CBD and Sleep

Those with chronic anxiety also often experience difficulties associated with sleep. Worry thoughts often impact a person’s ability to fall asleep, and in the morning, lack of sleep impacts a person’s ability to manage symptoms of anxiety. Therefore, improving sleep can in turn improve symptoms of anxiety.

CBD has shown promise in the management of insomnia and improving overall sleep. In fact, preliminary studies suggest that CBD is more effective than THC  in sleep management due to the fact that it does not interact with the natural sleep cycle the way that THC appears to.

Learn more about using cannabis to manage symptoms of insomnia.

How Much CBD Oil for Anxiety?

Treating anxiety tends to be easier with CBD products. You don’t need to worry about the potential negative effects of smoking because there are many other ways of consuming CBD. These include; tinctures that are dissolved sublingually (under your tongue), oral capsules and other edibles, and you can even cook it into your favourite meals or added to your favourite drinks. 

Check out some of these links to see these types of products and learn more about the different ways to add CBD into your wellness plan: 

Because CBD is binding to many different receptors throughout the body and not just in the brain it will be effective at a fairly low dose. At higher doses, those receptors can become saturated, so the remainder of the CBD will interact with other receptor systems, and that’s where you may start to see different effects.

Different routes of administration, such as vaporization, sublingual tinctures provide the most direct route for CBD to enter the bloodstream and therefore reach the brain more quickly. So, experimenting with different routes of administration can help to figure out the most effective method as well as dosing.

There is no universally accepted dosage for CBD but there are few things people should consider when figuring out the right dose for themself; 

  • their weight
  • the concentration of the product
  • the route of consumption.

A person should also consult a physician whenever possible and always start with a small dose and gradually increase until the most effective dose is found. (source)

How Do Edibles Help With Anxiety?

CBD is effective in managing symptoms associated with anxiety as well as helping people deal with the triggers that cause panic attacks. Edibles are a more discrete and easier method of consuming cannabis products on the go. For example; adding a tincture to your favourite beverage or just a few drops under your tongue for quick relief. Edible gummies or chocolates are also a discreet and easy to consume method. 

Make your own gummies with this recipe using Miss Envy’s coconut oil

Or try making your own chocolates with this recipe using Miss Envy’s coconut oil

You can also make your own edibles at home with CBD Coconut Oil. Works great as a substitute for butter in baking, bullet coffee or any of your favourite meals.

Cannabis and Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety is one of the most common anxiety disorders. Check out the next page on specific cannabis treatment for social anxiety.

What Envy Customers are saying about Cannabis and Anxiety

Allison (@stonerspice) talked with us about her experience with using cannabis to treat anxiety and how she incorporates both CBD and THC into her daily wellness routine. Read more about her experience here.