How to avoid cannabis-fueled anxiety.
Anxiety and paranoia can be extremely unpleasant side effects of marijuana. Some people even experience full-blown panic attacks whenever they give cannabis a try.
This can be a tremendous obstacle for people looking to medicate with cannabis, and many avoid the herb altogether because of it. I should know because I was one of these people for the longest time.
After all, how could it be that some people use this plant to treat anxiety and for others it causes anxiety?
The confusion and the repeated frustration was enough to get me digging into some serious research. I wanted to know what caused the anxiety and how or even if I could avoid those unpleasant feelings.
Here’s what I found.
How cannabis treats anxiety.
Near the center of our brains we have a twin set of neuron bundles called the amygdalae, responsible for importing cognitive processes, including fear and are fight or flight response.
The discovery that these amygdalae contain cannabinoid receptors – as verified by researchers at Vanderbilt University in 2014 – is a major step in understanding how cannabis can actually treat anxiety.
The idea is that these receptors depend on cannabinoids to do their job, to regulate all of those important emotional processes – as well as a ton of other processes in the body.
But sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough of its own cannabinoids – what we call endocannabinoids. In the case of anxiety, for example, research indicates that traumatic experiences can actually hinder the production of these endocannabinoids.
This would explain how people have reported success in treating various anxiety disorders, such as anorexia or PTSD, with cannabis.
But this still doesn’t explain why cannabis causes anxiety and paranoia for certain people. And although more research is needed, there are a few key factors we can examine now.
The Chemical Composition of Cannabis
As most of you already know, cannabis comes in a variety of chemical makeups. There are sativas and indicas, each with their own differing levels of CBD and THC, but individual strains can vary wildly in their cannabinoid profiles.
If anxiety is an issue, you might want to look for lower levels of THC or simply a different strain.
Not that THC is a bad thing, but it has been linked to feelings of paranoia and anxiety.
Your Physical Make-Up
Everyone is affected by chemicals differently. This is why you may eat just a few bites of a medicated brownie and find yourself on another planet, yet your buddy can eat the whole brownie and not feel a thing.
You’re both handling the chemicals differently, and there are seemingly a million factors that play into that.
Body size, age, gender and many other chemical processes in the body can all play a role in how you metabolize that brownie.
Also, the method in which cannabis is ingested plays a part. If you’re smoking dry flower, you may notice that you get a faster, or more impactful result. Edibles on the other hand can take up to two hours before you notice anything.
So, How Can I Actually Avoid Anxiety?
You can try a number of things to alleviate yourself of cannabis-induced anxiety.
- Consume smaller doses of cannabis.
- Experiment with different strains.
- Try alternative methods.
- Mind your set and setting.
These are extremely valuable tips, so let’s dive a little deeper into each one.
#1) Smaller doses
Whether you’re new to cannabis or not, taking in smaller doses can help you steer clear of anxiety and other unwanted side effects while achieving greater medical benefits over a longer period of time.
A lot of people – including myself – swear by micro-dosing, which involves medicating with such a small amount of cannabis that you notice minimum to zero side effects.
If you’re curious to learn more about micro-dosing, check out this comprehensive article about how less may indeed be more.
#2) Different strains
If you live in a state or country where cannabis is still prohibited, you’re not going to have a lot of options here.
But if you do have access to a dispensary, you might want to experiment with a variety of CBD-dominant strains.
CBD actually works to modulate the effects of THC, so even an equal 1:1 ratio might be more to your liking.
#3) Alternative methods
Smoking, vaping, edibles – all of these methods lead to different effects and experiences with cannabis.
With smoking and vaping, it’s much easier to self-titrate because the effects are almost immediate.
With edibles dosage can be much trickier, but if you can get it just right, this could be your ideal method of consumption.
If you are new to edibles, here is a detailed guide to get you started.
#4) Set and setting
Being mindful about set and setting, which refers to your mindset and your immediate environment, before consuming cannabis will also help with anxiety.
For example, I am much less likely to experience anxious thoughts if I have a few puffs while relaxing with some chill music or hanging with a close friend.
But if I toke up before or during an occasion where cannabis would not add as much value, then anxiety could be inevitable.
These are important points to consider before each and every cannabis session. Why I am using cannabis now? What value will it add? Might it be better to wait until later?
#5) One more trick
If all else fails and you find yourself gripped in a miserable state of cannabis-induced anxiety, try chewing on a peppercorn or even just smelling fresh pepper.
I haven’t tried this myself yet, but apparently pepper has a phytocannabinoid-terpenoid effect that interacts in a synergistic way with cannabis to reduce anxiety and paranoia.
Worth a shot right?
What works best for you?
Establishing the perfect cannabis regimen is a very personal experience that takes a lot of trial and error, mindfulness, and a willingness to recognize what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re patient, you can find what works best for you and avoid those unwanted side effects of marijuana. For me, it’s all about taking smaller doses and consuming when my set and setting are just right.
What has your experience been with anxiety and paranoia when consuming cannabis? Have any of these suggestions worked for you? Have you tried the peppercorn trick?