Anxiety is an umbrella term for a broad range of anxiety-related conditions, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and, until recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety disorders are one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the US aged 18 and over, or around 18.1% of the population, every year.
Anxiety is often comorbid with conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, and may have a part to play in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Chronic pain may also cause anxiety, and anxiety can make pain worse. Due to anxiety’s effect on serotonin receptors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common first port-of-call. Treatments also include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), but problems include addiction and inefficacy for PTSD.
Cannabis can make some feel more anxious, whilst it can help reduce it in others. Much of this is not only down to the sufferer’s individual constitution, but also the strain that they choose. Strains and concentrates high in THC but with little or no CBD may help induce anxiety, whilst high CBD strains may help prevent anxiety attacks.
Like with most research on cannabis and different medical problems, evidence is limited due to legal restrictions. However, cannabis seems to be a very powerful anxiolytic, modulating anxiety-related behaviour and neurotransmitter release in otherwise stressful situations.
Also, it is worth mentioning that a big part of physical pain is anxiety. Pain can cause anxiety, and an increase in anxiety can make pain worse. Panic attacks can also make a person “hypersensitive” to pain.
Anxiety is quite well-treated by antidepressants such as SSRIs. However, in more extreme cases, benzodiazepines may be used, cannabis may prove to be an alternative for. Moreover, antidepressants may take some time to work, as well as trying out several different types of antidepressant, as some antidepressants may work and others may not. Cannabinoids may be a potential “immediate” solution to anxiety attacks, or perhaps promote general well-being and reduce anxiety overall. 2,733 of patients surveyed used cannabis for anxiety. 149 (2.06%) of patients used cannabis to replace or reduce their need for anxiolytics.
Indica use seems to be most common for anxiety (35.89%), although sativas are not far behind (27.95%). Hybrids don’t seem commonly used for anxiety, at 15.95%. Linalool- and limonene- heavy strains/products may be of particular interest for those with anxiety.
Limonene may be a powerful antioxidant and is a selective activator of the adenosine A(2A) receptor. The lack of their activation is associated with anxiety, as well as insomnia and impaired dopamine transmission. This means that high amounts of limonene may work in a similar manner to diazepam. Linalool ingestion, meanwhile, may decrease serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine production, and as such may also have anxiolytic effects.