Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue in the US, with over 40 million adults — that’s almost 20% — having an anxiety disorder, as well as 7% of children. And many are learning that cannabis can help alleviate their symptoms.
A recent study by New Frontier Data showed that not only is cannabis a go-to treatment for anxiety, but many medical marijuana patients consider it more effective than traditional medications. Specifically, 41% of medical cannabis users in the US reported having an anxiety disorder. Of those who were prescribed anxiolytics (a class of medication used to treat anxiety), 64% said that they had stopped taking a prescription because medical cannabis was more effective.
Why has cannabis become such a popular choice for patients with anxiety? And can you treat anxiety symptoms with medical marijuana in Colorado? We’ll give you all the details.
What is anxiety?
Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. It’s normal to have increased nerves or stress in high-pressure situations, like before a job interview or a big presentation. For people with an anxiety disorder, these feelings of worry and/or fear are heightened and frequently recurring, to the point that they interfere with daily life. They may also experience periods of particularly intense anxiety symptoms that rapidly peak in the form of a panic attack.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, and people can have more than one. The following are some examples of anxiety disorders.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — involves increased anxiety over activities and events, including everyday occurrences. Symptoms are out of proportion to the reality of the situation and are difficult to manage. People with GAD often have other forms of anxiety or depression as well.
Panic disorder — frequent episodes of sudden, intense anxiety and fear that accumulate in minutes, resulting in a panic attack. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and feelings of “impending doom.”
Social anxiety disorder — heightened anxiety and fear in social situations, which leads to frequently avoiding social gatherings and events altogether. This type of anxiety derives from high levels of self consciousness and worry over the opinions of others.
Agoraphobia — fear of specific places or situations that may make you panic, and avoiding them as a result.
Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition — increased anxiety symptoms that are directly linked to a physical health condition.
Symptoms of anxiety disorders may include:
Nervousness or restlessness
A sense of danger or impending doom
Increased heart rate
Feeling tired or weak
Difficulty focusing, as a result of being consumed by worry and negative thoughts
Can you use medical cannabis for anxiety in Colorado?
Anxiety is not listed among the qualifying conditions for a medical cannabis evaluation in Colorado. However, many patients still legally use marijuana to treat their anxiety symptoms. How? Anxiety is often a symptom of other medical conditions.
Any condition for which a physician could prescribe an opioid
You might be using a medical marijuana prescription to treat persistent muscle spasms, but in reality, those symptoms can be caused by anxiety, or may cause additional anxiety that needs treatment.
PTSD often occurs alongside anxiety disorders. Many people with cancer experience anxiety throughout their treatment, which can make it difficult to care for themselves. If you have anxiety that stems from your qualifying condition, medical cannabis may help.
How a medical marijuana prescription can help reduce anxiety
Medical cannabis has become increasingly favored as a form of treatment for anxiety disorders. The most important reason? It can be very effective for alleviating symptoms. Cannabis works by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which is involved in regulating important physiological processes like mood, appetite regulation, sleep, stress, fear, and you guessed it — anxiety.
When you consume cannabis, cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) attach to receptors in the endocannabinoid system and produce various effects, including regulating your body’s response to stress.
Choosing a medical marijuana card over prescription medications
As previously mentioned, research shows that medical marijuana patients not only choose cannabis as a treatment for anxiety, but often prefer cannabis to their existing medications. The majority of patients in the New Frontier Data study who were already being prescribed anxiolytics reported they stopped taking their prescription once they started using medical cannabis — because, quite simply, it was working better.
Additionally, 54% of consumers with anxiety said that they replaced some or all of their prescriptions with a medical cannabis card, and over half said that one reason they wanted to reduce or transition from prescription medications was to “utilize a more natural treatment option.”
Cannabis dosage to treat anxiety
Every person is different, and every form and strain of cannabis produces varying effects — so there are many factors that may alter your body’s response to cannabis consumption.
This is why it’s recommended to start with a low dose, and slowly increase from there. It’s also important to read the product label for dosing information, and consult with your cannabis physician for further guidance.
Ready to apply for a medical marijuana card?
If you’re considering getting a medical marijuana card and have a qualifying condition, we’re here for support. Please feel free to contact Relaxed Clarity with questions or concerns regarding prescriptions for medical marijuana.