One of the greatest benefits to the ongoing rehabilitation of marijuana’s reputation in the Western World is breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions. For years, the general public and the medical community were misled and outright deceived by anti-cannabis propaganda issued by governmental agencies and funded by the pharmaceutical, alcohol and tobacco industries. These were common falsehoods, such as, “cannabis makes you lazy,” “pot is a gateway drug,” “marijuana will make you paranoid,” etc.
Interestingly, it is the latter of those three cliches that has taken some additional time to correct—the idea that cannabis inherently makes people nervous and anxious. Certainly, given an improper dose and an uncomfortable setting it can produce that type of effect, but today there are a growing number of people who in fact find relief from anxiety and depression using medicinal marijuana. Considering the mass proliferation and possible negative side-effects that antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications can have, cannabis is a welcome alternative for these treatments.
One of the keys to working through this long-standing misconception is first to talk about dosage. Many of the anecdotal stories that have been used in anti-drug propaganda are the result of clearly improper cannabis doses. Clinical physicians and mental health professionals who advise using cannabis to improve mental wellbeing will always begin with very small doses. It is at these lower levels that health professionals can start to determine if using medical marijuana is benefiting their patient when it comes to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. There is also a great deal of research evidence which suggests that lower doses of cannabis may be the most effective at combating anxiety.
Because so many people have pursued cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and depression, there is a solid catalogue of research material to support it as a treatment option. In a 2018 study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, the authors note that “It appears that the isolated cannabinoids, as well as herbal cannabis, can induce both anxiolytic and anxiogenic effects,” referring to their ability to both increase as well as lower anxiety. The paper mentions that dosage plays a key role in this case, noting there is a “dose-dependent biphasic response curve whereby low doses result in anxiolytic effects and high doses in anxiogenic effects.” Stripping away the scientific jargon, this essentially means that lower doses of cannabis tend to be the best option for easing tension and improving mood.
Similarly, research is ongoing which may support the use of cannabis as a treatment for major depression. The University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions is currently undertaking a study that is showing promising results.
A press release issued by the University’s News Center notes that “the findings raise the possibility that components of marijuana may be useful in reducing depression that results from chronic stress.”
This research, which is conducted by senior scientist Samir Haj-Dahmane, PhD, illustrates how chronic stress reduces the production of endocannabinoids in animal studies. As a result of this, treatment with exogenous cannabinoids from marijuana could provide those suffering from depression and anxiety with relief without the dangers of benzodiazepines and antidepressant medications.
As always, you should speak with your physician or mental health professional before beginning any treatment plan for a mood disorder such as anxiety. If you and your doctor determine that cannabis may be a path towards a healthier future, then you can begin to discuss appropriate dosages of cannabis and CBD.