Anxiety is a funny thing.
Have you ever tried cupping water in your hands, only to watch it slip through the tiny, almost invisible cracks between your fingers?
That’s how maintaining mental clarity and balance can feel, if you’re dealing with anxiety even semi-regularly.
Not only are anxiety disorders the most common mental health conditions in the US, affecting 31% of people, but they’re also undertreated. (1) Only 46% of people diagnosed with anxiety are receiving treatment, and a percentage of those are exploring alternative treatment options.
Maybe that’s you?
Or maybe you’ve even experimented with using cannabis for anxiety. Whether you have, haven’t, or are just curious, we’ve put together this guide to talk you through the ins and outs of THC, CBD, and how to be responsible when exploring using cannabis as a treatment for anxiety.
Ready? Let’s fill in the cracks.
Understanding Cannabis and Anxiety
Overview of Different Strains of Cannabis and Their Effects
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s take care of our terms. “Cannabis” is quite broad, referring to the cannabis plant, the chemicals derived from it, and the products created from the plant itself.
Frustratingly enough, these products can both increase and decrease anxiety, depending on the preparation, method of ingestion, and balance of chemicals within.
So, as you can probably imagine, attempting to google “cannabis for anxiety” is going to lead you down quite the rabbit hole.
Knowledge is power, and knowing what you’re getting into before you attempt any form of self-medicating is key.
Differentiating Between CBD and THC: Effects on Anxiety
If you’ve been brushing up on our blog, you’ll know that CBD and THC are the two main cannabinoids found in cannabis products. If you’re new here, no worries! We’ll break it down for you first. (3)
Cannabinoids, and there are hundreds of them, are what bind to the cannabinoid receptors in our endocannabinoid system (more on this in a bit) to create a variety of effects in our bodies and brains.
Some of those effects are anxiogenic, or anxiety-promoting, while others are anxiolytic, or anxiety-reducing. Those totally sound like dinosaur names, but the important takeaway is this: sometimes, when you’re trying to calm yourself down with a cannabis product, you’re going to end up more anxious. (4)
And that’s not good!
Generally speaking (and we mean generally) CBD is known for its anxiolytic effects, while THC has been associated with an anxiogenic response.
A good way to remember the main distinction between CBD and THC is this: CBD binds to receptors that don’t get you high. THC does. THC is what creates the “high” you’ve no doubt heard about, while CBD has become popular for its soothing and calming effects on the body.
Sounds simple enough, but the complicated stuff starts when you mix the two. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all that!
The Endocannabinoid System and Its Role in Anxiety Regulation
Fun fact: we humans have a built-in cannabis receptor system in our bodies, called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. (5)
Without getting too technical, it’s how we receive and process external, or exogenous cannabinoids, through CB1 and CB2 receptors.
More fun fact: we also make our own! Internal, or endogenouscannabinoids help modulate our nervous systems and regulate chronic pain, anxiety, and stress.
When you experience anxiety, your body activates the ECS. When CB1 receptors are activated, either externally through cannabis or internally through endocannabinoids, mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA are released. (6)
By modulating their release, the ECS can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Simply put, the ECS can regulate anxiety by affecting the chemicals in your brain that influence stress and mood by helping your body maintain a more balanced emotional state.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Cannabis Strain for Anxiety
THC to CBD Ratio and Its Impact on Anxiety
Have you ever had a friend share a tip that worked for them, but it did absolutely nothing for you?
Anxiety is a complex emotional and physical response, almost as individual as the person experiencing it.
So, it follows that what works for one person might not work for you.
With that in mind, the following information is what has generally been found to be true – but only you can know what’s right for you! Always consult with your preferred healthcare professional before proceeding.
Generally speaking, cannabis strains with a high THC to CBD ratio, often referred to as THC-dominant (psychoactive compound) strains, can potentially increase anxiety, especially consumed in high doses.*
It can lead to feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and increased heart rate. (7)
*What’s a high dose? It varies from person to person!
Conversely, CBD-dominant strains are unlikely to trigger anxiety or psychoactive effects. And a balanced THC to CBD ratio (of 1:1 or 2:1 THC to CBD) are generally considered to be less anxiety-inducing.
Popular Cannabis Products for Anxiety
Assuming that the below products are both legal and available in your area (always check local laws!) you have a few options when it comes to CBD-dominant products that may help with social anxiety.
CBD-Dominant Cannabis Strains: Some cannabis strains are bred to have high CBD levels with very low THC levels. These strains are often referred to as “CBD strains” or “CBD-rich strains.” at your local dispensary. Examples include Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, and Harlequin. (8)
CBD Oil and Tinctures: If you’d rather not smoke, CBD-dominant tinctures and oils are available. They typically contain a higher CBD-to-THC ratio, such as 20:1 or 10:1.
CBD Edibles: Like a little treat? CBD-dominant edibles come in various forms like gummies, chocolates, and drinks. They can be a tasty way to consume CBD. What’s more, their THC content is usually very low or negligible.
CBD Topicals: CBD-dominant creams, balms, and lotions are on the market for those dealing with pain and inflammation. Products like these typically don’t enter the bloodstream, so there is minimal risk of THC exposure.
Bonus category: Suppositories!
The Hello Again Everyday is a 1:8 THC:CBD suppository formulated for everyday menopause relief.
Balanced CBD-THC Products
When CBD and THC work in balance, it can be a beautiful thing.
In fact, it can produce something called the entourage effect.
The entourage effect suggests that the compounds found in cannabinoids work better together than apart, enhancing each other’s therapeutic properties. (9)
The entourage effect might allow for effective anxiety relief with lower doses of THC, which means that even fewer negative side effects can come into play.
And just like with CBD-dominant products, there are options out there for balanced CBD:THC products. As always, the same caveats about legality and availability apply.
1:1 CBD-THC Tinctures: These tinctures contain an equal ratio of CBD to THC, such as 1:1. Users can place drops under the tongue for fast absorption. This ratio is often chosen for a balanced experience with potential pain relief and anxiety reduction.
1:1 CBD-THC Edibles: Edibles like gummies or chocolates can be formulated with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC. This allows for precise dosing and a balanced experience.
1:1 CBD-THC Capsules: Capsules are pre-measured doses of CBD and THC in a balanced ratio. They offer convenience and consistency in dosing. Similar to capsules are Hello Again’s expertly formulated suppositories, like the balanced Hello Again Hangover for post-party relief.
Balanced CBD-THC Flower: Certain cannabis strains are bred to have equal amounts of CBD and THC. These strains can be smoked or vaporized for a balanced effect.
The Significance of Proper Dosage in Managing Anxiety
When it comes to discovering the proper dosage for you, remember this phrase: start low, go slow.
As we discussed earlier, THC can increase anxiety when taken in excess, or even in small doses. Since there’s no one-size solution, you’re going to be your own best friend in this process.
Whatever you can do to make your life easier, do it. Consider keeping a journal to map out the effects of each product, so that you can compare and contrast the effects of various products you’ve tried.
You might be surprised at what you find!
And when you are trying new products, allow for plenty of time to feel the effects. You can even try something scientists do called titration, which refers to gradually increasing your dose in small increments. For example, if you’re trying a CBD tincture, try increasing the dose by a drop each time. (10)
Just like your anxiety is personal to you, so should your dosages and preferred products.
Consumption of Alternatives for Anxiety Relief
Whatever method of cannabis ingestion you choose, be it smoking, vaping, edibles, suppositories, or tinctures, there are 3 main factors you want to keep in mind: onset, dosage, and duration. (11)
Onset: Smoking or vaping cannabis, regardless of CBD or THC balance, creates a very rapid onset. You can feel the effects within minutes, which can be beneficial for anxiety relief. Tinctures, edibles and suppositories go through the digestive system and/or mucus membranes, so the onset is slower.
Dosage: It can be fairly easy to control dosage via smoking, vaping, or tinctures, since you can measure by breath or drop. (11) Edibles are a bit trickier, as they’re dosed out by the piece. Nibble a bit at a time and wait to see how they affect you.
Duration: Ingestion methods with the quickest onset have the shortest duration, so smoking and vaping are on the short side while edibles, suppositories, and tinctures stick around for a while.
Professional Consultation and Medical Considerations
The Importance of Consulting a Healthcare Provider
Cannabis is relatively safe, right? So why bother consulting a medical professional?
Cannabis might be relatively safe chemically speaking, but a medical professional, especially your healthcare provider, will be able to advise you on how its compounds can and will interact with your current conditions and any prescription medications you may be taking.
They can also advise you on the legal status of cannabis in your region, and even monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
Be smart, be safe, be well!
Alternative Strategies for Anxiety Management
Despite the fact that we’ve focused solely on cannabis for anxiety, that shouldn’t exclude the many other alternative remedies that exist – some of which may be enhanced by cannabis use.
Therapy and counseling is the big one, of course, but if you aren’t currently able to afford seeing a therapist, mindfulness can always be practiced in the comfort of home or nature. (12)
Mindfulness can help create space around worries and put you back in touch with yourself. Along with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, you may find massive benefits in meditation and spending peaceful time with yourself.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Understanding Cannabis Laws in Your Region
All the CBD and THC in the world won’t help if it’s not legal to use where you live or work.
We’re not doctors, so we can’t give medical advice, but we will advocate for responsible and legal cannabis use, whatever its form or chemical composition.
Consult your local laws before purchasing any of the products we’ve outlined above. And be aware when using legal cannabis – be sure not to endanger yourself or others when you’re in an altered state.
We’ve thrown a few new things your way with this one – we sure hope they help.
Anxiety is such a tricky condition, and it can be so difficult to manage. Exploring safe and legal use of cannabis can certainly be worth your time, especially with the CBD-rich products presented above.
It can be tempting to try everything at once in an attempt to find a quick fix, but we promise that slow and steady really does win the race.
Take advantage of the resources around you in your community, and you’ll be sure to find solutions.