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    Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Can Marijuana Calm Anxiety or Make It Worse?
    by Eileen Bailey, HealthCentral.com
    February 13, 2017

    A common myth around marijuana is that smoking it relieves feelings of anxiety. In some cases, this is true. But it isn?t the whole story. The relationship between marijuana and anxiety is much more complex.

    In recent years, a number of states in the U.S. have made marijuana legal for medical purposes, recreational use, or both. It remains illegal in many states. If you choose to smoke marijuana, please be sure to follow the laws in your state.

    How marijuana helps reduce anxiety
    Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that the endocannabinoid system in the brain, which regulates anxiety and the fight-or-flight response, doesn?t work properly in some people. Smoking marijuana helps to supplement the levels of these chemicals in the brain, working to restore balance and help reduce anxiety.
    A study published in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences in 2013 found that when self- reporting on marijuana use, the second most common reason for use cited was for relief from stress, tension, and anxiety. The researchers also found that THC, the main chemical component in marijuana responsible for the high of the drug, reduced anxiety in those with anxiety disorders. THC may artificially supply what the brain is not able to and interact with other neurotransmitters in the brain, lowering anxiety levels and bringing about a happy, relaxed feeling.

    These studies showed that, in the short-term, marijuana can help reduce anxiety. But in the long-term, it might actually harm you. According to the researchers at Vanderbilt, chronic use of the drug reduced the efficiency of the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, causing an increase in anxiety and requiring more of the drug to get the same desired effect.

    Some people experience paranoia and increased anxiety
    In about one-half of the people who were given THC reported increased feelings of anxiety, paranoia, worry, negative thoughts, lowered mood and changes in perception. Researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK injected participants with THC (injections were used to make sure all participants received the same level of THC) or a placebo. One-half of the participants who received THC reported negative feelings. The researchers believe that their study definitively shows that THC can cause paranoia and increased anxiety in some people.

    The studies don?t explain why some people feel more relaxed when using marijuana and some people feel more anxious and paranoid. The researchers at the University of Oxford believe that paranoia, agitation and anxiety are more likely to occur based on how a person feels before using marijuana. Professor Daniel Freeman, the lead author of the study indicates that when someone is worried, before using marijuana, they have a skewed view of the world and the drug enhances those feelings, causing the person to more anxious.

    Whether or not marijuana can be safely used to treat anxiety still isn?t clear. For some people, it appears to reduce anxiety; for others, it increases anxiety. Long-term and heavy use also tends to increase anxiety. With such mixed results from the Vanderbilt study, doctors might not feel comfortable prescribing it to a patient with anxiety. More research is needed in order to better understand why marijuana?s effect can vary so widely from one person to the next.


    Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    The studies don?t explain why some people feel more relaxed when using marijuana and some people feel more anxious and paranoid. The researchers at the University of Oxford believe that paranoia, agitation and anxiety are more likely to occur based on how a person feels before using marijuana. Professor Daniel Freeman, the lead author of the study indicates that when someone is worried, before using marijuana, they have a skewed view of the world and the drug enhances those feelings, causing the person to more anxious.
    That's interesting.

    I stopped smoking marijuana recreationally quite awhile ago but now have and occasionally use medical marijuana for PTSD.I rarely do though because sometimes it gives me bad anxiety,almost panic, and it's a horrible experience waiting for it to wear off.Other times though,I experience immediate relief and instant calmness,but since I am never sure which it will be I am usually too afraid to even try.

    After reading this,maybe I can kind of know when to and when not to,according to which symptoms I am experiencing?Like,when I am already feeling paranoid,hypervigilant and unsafe,don't use it then but if I am depressed maybe that might be a good time to?The times it does help,it really,really helps,but when it makes things worse,omg it's such a horrible thing to go through.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    If you're feeling depressed, cannabis may intensify that experience.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Maybe I should give it a try when I'm depressed to see how I react to it,that's when my husband tries to encourage me to but I always just say "I don't feel like it".

    I have it because it's *supposed* to help me yet because of the bad experiences even thinking about using it and maybe having another bad experience gives me anxiety.

    I don't understand this because I used to smoke on a regular basis,but that was stuff from the streets,medical is 100% different.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Quote Originally Posted by LIT View Post
    Maybe I should give it a try when I'm depressed to see how I react to it,that's when my husband tries to encourage me to but I always just say "I don't feel like it".

    I have it because it's *supposed* to help me yet because of the bad experiences even thinking about using it and maybe having another bad experience gives me anxiety.

    I don't understand this because I used to smoke on a regular basis,but that was stuff from the streets,medical is 100% different.
    The reality is that medical practitioners and the medical research community are still very unclear as to when it helps and when it makes things worse. It does seem that it can help with loss of appetite and nausea in chemotherapy but most of the other reasons for prescribing it seem to be based on anecdotal evidence rather than real evidence, and sadly anecdotal evidence rarely provides the negative evidence for its value.

    More anecdotal evidence I know, but in 30+ years of clinical experience it was very clear to me that long term chronic use of street cannabis provided brief temporary relief but made most mental health conditions progressively worse over time. Additionally, I saw clinical evidence of the emergence of panic disorder in several patients who previously showed no history of panic symptoms.

    All of this has nothing to do with the legalization of cannabis or medical marijuana. The reality is that one can say the same things about chronic heavy alcohol use. The fact that for decades alcohol has been legal and marijuana illegal and punishable by prison time was always irrational and largely a situation created for political not scientific reasons.

    But we should not fool ourselves into believing that cannabis is any safer or more desirable or more free of adverse side effects than alcohol simply because one is socially approved and the other is not.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter View Post
    More anecdotal evidence I know, but in 30+ years of clinical experience it was very clear to me that long term chronic use of street cannabis provided brief temporary relief but made most mental health conditions progressively worse over time.
    I can attest to that,back when I was smoking every day,all day long,I did get worse even though I didn't realize it at the time.I can sure recognize it in hindsight though.

    I want to be able to use marijuana and receive the benefits I'm seeking in order to replace medications like Alprazolam,but I don't know if it's going to work out for me.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Quote Originally Posted by LIT View Post
    I want to be able to use marijuana and receive the benefits I'm seeking in order to replace medications like Alprazolam,but I don't know if it's going to work out for me.
    I'm not sure I understand why you want to replace an anxiolytic with known benefits and an established, identified list of potential side-effects with another drug with uncertain benefits and side-effects.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Baxter View Post
    I'm not sure I understand why you want to replace an anxiolytic with known benefits and an established, identified list of potential side-effects with another drug with uncertain benefits and side-effects.
    Well when you put it that way,it doesn't make sense that I would even consider replacing something that works,and works every time,with something that clearly isn't working and causes major problems for me,does it?

    I guess I have just wanted to jump on the bandwagon.There's so many TV shows and articles claiming it's the safer,more natural route to take and supposedly helps/cures everything from headaches to cancer.I also liked the idea of growing my own medication,you can't grow Xanax or Klonopin.And I have also found all the cooking with cannabis shows very appealing.

    That's what it is...it's very appealing to me,I'm just being completely honest about it.Even pets are being treated with it now.It's made to look like a cure all,and a safe,natural one to boot,just a harmless plant.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    I don't think anything is harmless in excess. I believe the argument is ultimately about money and market share. It isn't about health. How come you can buy tobacco and alcohol? Cannabis is a threat to a number of industries and until the Government figures out how to capitalize off of it, there will be a debate.

    If standing on your head, in a canoe, in the middle of a lake brings you what you need and desire; I suggest you buy a canoe. No one needs to justify that. We all have a right to live a happy and healthy life. At what point does our personal preferences stop being everyone else's business? I guess when we choose to be responsible with our actions. Until then there will always be a need for control. Personally, I'm going to buy a canoe.

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    Re: Does Marijuana Reduce Anxiety or Make It Worse?

    There is always a popular, fashionable 'wonder solution' getting a lot of talk and coverage... whether it be food related, diet, all kinds of things... always with strong believers on both sides of the discussion.... I'm just super grateful that we are able to do long-term science on things and get more comprehensive answers. I hope nothing ever changes that or threatens that.

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