Marijuana and Anxiety: Does Marijuana Help Anxiety or Cause it?

There has been a lot of discussion about marijuana and anxiety, and as a result, many people are wondering the same question: Does marijuana help anxiety or cause it?

There are some who discuss marijuana and anxiety within the context of the drug being a “cure” for the condition, while other people believe marijuana and anxiety are a bad combination and the drug can actually make the mental health issue worse.

So, which is correct? Does marijuana help anxiety or cause it?

Marijuana and Anxiety | Does Marijuana Help Anxiety or Cause it?

Marijuana is a drug derived from the cannabis plant, and while it’s illegal in many states, efforts in recent years to legalize it, at least for medicinal purposes, have succeeded. People believe marijuana has the ability to help treat mental health conditions including anxiety and to help manage the symptoms of diseases like cancer. With that being said, the leading medical organizations in the U.S., including The American Medical Association, oppose its medical use.

There are many different compounds in marijuana which are called cannabinoids, and these attach to various receptors in the brain of the user. Different types of marijuana and various strains have distinctive levels of these compounds, so they may affect each person differently.

So what about marijuana and anxiety? Proponents of using marijuana for the treatment of anxiety believe that one particular compound, cannabidiol (CBD), is what can be useful in treating anxiety. CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties as well.

However, many people don’t realize that CBD itself doesn’t produce a high, and it can be taken on its own as an extract without actually smoking or ingesting marijuana. THC, another compound in marijuana that makes people feel high, can actually contribute to the development of symptoms related to anxiety and can worsen anxiety.

Before looking at the specific connections between marijuana and anxiety, understanding the definition of anxiety is important.

Anxiety is a sense of worry or fear, and having some level of anxiety in daily life is normal. What’s not normal is having persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life.

There are various types of anxiety disorders that are clinically recognized, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.

It’s difficult to say whether or not marijuana helps anxiety or causes it. It depends on quite a few factors.

First and foremost, your mental state and the environment you’re in when using marijuana play a big role in how you react. Marijuana is a drug that can alter your feelings, perceptions and your mood.

Marijuana and anxiety can go hand-in-hand in some people, and you may not get a pleasant or relaxing experience when using it. In fact, your experience could be quite the opposite. Many people feel that marijuana can bring symptoms of anxiety or can heighten their existing anxiety, particularly if they use it in a situation that isn’t pleasant, or where they’re trying to conceal their use of the drug.

There’s also some belief that when looking at marijuana and anxiety, it’s not just about your situation and state of mind when you use it.

There’s some research showing that marijuana and anxiety can be problematic with long-term use. What this means is that while marijuana might be relaxing in the short-term, with chronic use, it can cause symptoms of anxiety, or can make them worse. It is also believed to cause other long-term problems such as cognition issues and memory loss.

In general, the acute effects of marijuana use include a sense of deep relaxation or well-being, but this isn’t always the case. The anxiety-related side effects of marijuana are often misunderstood or underreported, but they’re important to understand.

Some side effects of marijuana use can include anxiety and panic, and an increased risk of psychotic symptoms, particularly in people with a history of these situations.

Panic reactions are also possible. With marijuana and anxiety, someone may start out simply feeling general anxiety, which can escalate into full-scale panic. With a panic reaction, the person who used the drug will start to feel like they’re dying or going crazy. This is similar to a bad trip with a hallucinogenic drug. In some cases, these panic reactions can be severe and can lead the person using marijuana to harmful behaviors.

Some studies have shown that with marijuana and anxiety reactions, the brain isn’t able to filter out particular stimuli which can lead to panic and hallucinations.

Other studies show that people who use marijuana are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression because their brain reacts slowly to dopamine. There is some belief that a lowered reaction to dopamine may be why some individuals, particularly habitual marijuana users, start showing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

To sum up the most important facts regarding marijuana and anxiety:

  • Marijuana can provide short-term relief symptoms from anxiety, but in some people, it can also cause short-term anxiety as well as panic.
  • With marijuana and anxiety, you’re more likely to feel these symptoms if you’re uncomfortable or you’re in a stressful environment.
  • For some, withdrawal from marijuana and a sense of anxiety go together. If you’re a long-term user of marijuana and you suddenly stop, anxiety can become a very pronounced symptom.
  • Another connection between marijuana and anxiety is people with anxiety may be more likely to overindulge in marijuana as a way to self-medicate, but this can lead to substance abuse problems.

So, does marijuana help anxiety or cause it? The answer depends on several factors, and for some people, marijuana can cause at least some minor symptoms of anxiety.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.