Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting roughly 40 million adults. From family history and stressful events to health problems and personality, several factors can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder. As more states legalize medical marijuana, more people are turning to cannabis for managing their anxiety.
How Can Medical Marijuana Treat Anxiety?
One of the most commonly prescribed forms of anti-anxiety medication is benzodiazepines. These medications can help reduce anxiety symptoms, such as panic attacks or extreme fear and worry. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA — a chemical in the brain that helps you feel calm and balances your anxiety levels.
Studies have shown that marijuana also affects GABA levels. These studies have discovered that the components in marijuana, such as CBD and THC, manage the amount of GABA in the brain, helping reduce anxiety levels.
The cannabis compound known as CBD has been shown to offer substantial benefits for people suffering from anxiety and stress. CBD may work by affecting serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness. It also helps with sleeping, eating and digestion.
Medical marijuana may also lower cortisol levels, a hormone that indicates how much stress you feel. According to a study, subjective stress ratings and cortisol levels were significantly higher in non-medical marijuana users compared to cannabis users. The cannabis users demonstrated blunted stress reactivity. Specifically, they showed no increase in cortisol and a significantly smaller increase in subjective stress ratings.
According to another study, marijuana can reduce anxiety-causing connections between two brain regions, the amygdala and the frontal cortex. As people are exposed to stress and get anxious, the amygdala and frontal cortex connect, and their activity grows stronger together. The researchers in this study reported that there is a molecule produced by the brain that activates the same receptors as marijuana, which is protective against stress by reducing anxiety-causing connections between the two brain regions.
Using Medical Marijuana for Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most common conditions for which people seek medical marijuana. Medical marijuana can serve as a holistic alternative to anxiety medication and ease your anxiety in a way that allows normal function.