Is Cannabis a Helpful Treatment for Anxiety?
How This Safe and All-Natural Anxiety Reducer Can Change the Lives of Anxiety Sufferers.
One of the most common mental disorders, anxiety comes in many forms. For some, it rears its head as generalized anxiety disorder, an all-encompassing and constant feeling of fear and dread. Others may experience panic attacks that come on for no particular reason. During a panic attack, they may experience racing thoughts, an increased heart rate, tightness of the chest, sweaty palms and dizziness. Also common is social anxiety – a condition that creates an irrational fear of interacting with other people in social settings.
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, but for people who suffer from anxiety disorder, it can become crushing and nearly crippling. Despite its prevalence, nearly two-thirds of adults who struggle with anxiety fail to receive treatment. Those who do are typically prescribed medications.
While some medications can be helpful for anxiety disorder, they aren’t without side effects. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are one type of medication that are often prescribed for anxiety. Although they can relieve anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, they can also cause frustrating symptoms. These include nausea, insomnia, dizziness, headaches and sexual issues such as lack of desire and erectile dysfunction. Benzodiazepines are another class of drug that is commonly used for anxiety. These work to relax the mind and body and are helpful for calming panic and treating insomnia. Unfortunately, they share many of the same side effects as SSRIs and can also cause weight gain, depression and confusion.
Frustration with side effects from prescription anxiety medications leads many sufferers to search for a more natural alternative that doesn’t cause them to feel sick. Many people finally find relief in the form of medical cannabis. Unlike its recreational counterpart, medical cannabis need not be smoked. It can be found and consumed in many forms, including edible treats, oral drops, sublingual sprays, as well as inhaled through vaporizers that dispense cannabis oil.
The Medical Community Catches On
According to the U.S.based National Cancer Institute, cannabis has been used as medicine for over 3,000 years. In recent years, mainstream medical organizations have begun to put real time and money into researching its many medical uses. The findings have been promising. In September 2016, the all-parlimentary group for drug policy reform (appg) released the results of a 7-month inquiry into the need for medical cannabis to be legalized in the UK. In the report, Professor Michael P. Barnes, a neurologist, and Dr. Jennifer C. Barnes, a clinical psychologist, compiled research gathered from 623 patients, as well as various doctors and experts on medical cannabis. They concluded that there is strong evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for a whole host of issues, including anxiety.
Does Cannabis Cause or Reduce Anxiety?
Any amount of research on cannabis and anxiety will reveal that the substance has a dual effect: it can both cause anxiety and alleviate it. This is possible because of the two main chemicals in cannabis. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for the euphoric “high” sensation most often associated with cannabis use. Another chemical, CBD (cannabidiol), is non-psychoactive. CBD actually works against the high-inducing THC.
Medical cannabis is good for reducing panic attacks, as well as treating generalized anxiety disorder. It’s particularly good for individuals who suffer from social anxiety, enabling them to leave the house experience everyday life and interactions with others. Researchers also found that it cannabis helpful for reducing secondary anxiety resulting from a serious illness such as chronic pain or cancer.
How Does Cannabis Combat Anxiety?
In their study on the medical use of cannabis, Professor Michael P. Barnes and Dr. Jennifer C. Barnes found that the reason cannabis works to alleviate various illnesses and symptoms by mimicking the body’s own natural chemicals. The human brain is equipped with tiny cannabinoid receptors. In various situations (such as when one is in pain), the body produces chemicals to bind to the cannabinoid receptors. This helps do things such as reduce pain and control movement disorders. Researchers have discovered that cannabis can replace these chemicals.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure how this process works in alleviating anxiety, but it is clear that CBD provides relief for people who suffer from it. Patients report an improvement of mood and overall reduced discomfort due to their anxiety. There is speculation that CBD might decrease high levels of blood flow that supply areas of the brain that are responsible for generating fear and anxiety. Another theory is that the chemicals somehow affect behavior of the brain’s seratonin.
Are There Side Effects?
No matter what the mechanism, strains of cannabis that are high in CBD allow patients to experience the positive, anxiety-reducing effects without the euphoric high of THC. This way, they can still function and go about their day. Patients won’t experience memory loss, food cravings or any of the other side effects that most people commonly associate with cannabis use.
Some people may experience short-term side effects from medical cannabis. The most common side effects are disorientation, dizziness, and euphoria (although these are less likely with strains that are high in CBD and low in THC because they lack the psychoactive effects). More study is needed on the long-term side effects of using medical cannabis to treat anxiety, but for many, it provides a welcome relief from both the daily feeling of impending doom and the emotional and physical effects of taking prescription anxiety medications.
Each Person Is Different
As with prescription anxiety medications, many patients need to work with their healthcare practitioners to experiment with different high-CBC/low-THC strains to find out which ones work best to relieve their anxiety. Because each person’s brain chemistry is different, what is effective for one person may not work for someone else. As researchers learn more and medical cannabis becomes more widely available, a larger number of people will gain access to medical cannabis. As people are given the choice between prescription medications and all-natural cannabis, more anxiety sufferers will be able to find a solution that works for them.More Cannabis Information can be found at our Cannabis Article Library.
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