Marijuana: Does it Really Help Anxiety?

With marijuana now legalized in Canada, people have been able to explore the medical benefits that it has to offer. Marijuana has helped people deal with nausea from chemotherapy, chronic pain, sleep issues and much more. Most recently, people have been looking into its use in soothing physical pain and are starting to explore the benefits it may have for mental health. 

Anxiety is one of many problems people can face when it comes to mental health. The overwhelming negative thoughts and panic attacks associated with anxiety can not only affect a person’s relationships and work, but can make their overall daily life difficult. With one in three Canadians reporting struggling with anxiety, people have started to use marijuana to self-medicate. But how much is it really helping?

Person Holding Green Canabis

How Marijuana Helps

In a recent study, results showed that 60% of cannabis users surveyed reported that they were using it to help cope with anxiety. People found that using marijuana could significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and provide temporary relief from feelings of depression, stress, overwhelming thoughts and sleeplessness--symptoms that make daily life hard. 

There has been some further research done into how cannabis can help anxiety and whether one strain is more effective than others. Results found that participants didn’t prefer one particular strain, suggesting that the effectiveness was based highly on the individual. This means that while cannabis may have a positive effect on one person, it could have a negative effect on someone else. For the best results, users must find what works best for them individually. 

The Short-Term Risks

Even though cannabis can offer a calming result, there are also short-term risks involved. Marijuana is a psychoactive substance and using it can potentially cause negative side effects. Because every person reacts differently, marijuana can end up having a negative impact on a person’s mental health. People who use marijuana can end up feeling scared or even experience intense feelings of paranoia, thus adding further to their anxious thoughts.

Man in Blue and Brown Plaid Dress Shirt Touching His Hair

The Long-Term Risks

Despite providing some short-term benefits, cannabis has no known long-term benefits with anxiety treatment and has actually been found to have negative impacts in the long run. Long-term marijuana use, especially in young people whose brains are still developing, is found to create problems with long-term memory. This is because THC, the chemical in marijuana that provides the high, affects the area of the brain responsible for memory formation. Long-term use can damage this area of the brain, resulting in memory problems later in life. 

Another issue is the psychological dependence that users form overtime. People who depend on cannabis aren’t truly treating their anxiety and, in the absence of effective coping mechanisms, are more likely to make their symptoms worse in the long term. Additionally, some individuals who are genetically vulnerable to psychotic disorders are more likely to develop psychosis after long-term cannabis use. 

The overall conclusion that researchers have gathered is that even though cannabis does provide short-term benefits for some people, it isn’t an effective long-term solution in the treatment of anxiety. 

Some Alternative Treatments to Marijuana

One new treatment that people have started experimenting with is CBD oil, which is a marijuana extract. Even though research into CBD is very new and limited, CBD oil offers a safer solution because it doesn’t contain the chemical THC, reducing many of the long-term risks that regular marijuana has. CBD is said to offer similar calming effects and stress relief to patients suffering from anxiety without having to alter or affect the brain’s chemistry.

Woman Stands on Mountain over Field Under Cloudy Sky at SunriseDespite the excitement of CBD oil and other marijuana-based research, one of the most effective ways to manage anxiety in the long-term is therapy. Different forms of therapy will offer long-term solutions with dealing with anxiety, such as practicing effective coping mechanisms and dealing with the roots of anxiety.