Most experienced smokers know that cannabis can have many different effects. With today’s huge diversity of weed strains, it is even possible to pick your preferred type of cannabis based on the specific mental and bodily effects you are after. Interestingly, this provides an opportunity to choose strains that can help counter fear and anxiety. Many people use cannabis to reduce stress, fear, and anxiety. Especially in these stressful and frightening corona times, that could prove useful for many people. But how about the sensation of fear, paranoia, and panic cannabis is sometimes reported to trigger? How can the relationship between cannabis and anxiety work both ways? In this article, we explore how weed and fear relate.
How Cannabis And Anxiety Work In The Brain
Let’s start out with the mechanism behind cannabis and anxiety, fear, or even paranoia. It turns out that the cannabinoid compounds naturally found in the plant can act on the nerve cells of our own body. Cannabinoids like THC interact with our endocannabinoid system by influencing how nerve cells communicate with neighbouring cells. In the case of fear, the influence of THC is mostly felt in the amygdala, an ancient part of the brain.
The amygdala is involved in regulating the emotions we feel, including fear and stress. This organ has been with us throughout evolution, playing a crucial role in causing fight or flight behaviour. Knowing when to freak out has helped us survive in hostile environments. Very handy when’ you’re a caveman in a forest full of tigers. When THC influences amygdala decision-making, however, we could become paranoid and get scared when there’s no tigers around. We could also become too relaxed and give that same tiger a half-crazed stoner grin, right before said tiger chews our baked head off. It goes to show that controlling fear and anxiety is a very useful skill.
THC is capable of acting on amygdala cell receptors. However, it can do so in two directions, positively or negatively impacting their communication. It appears that two factors determine which way the pendulum swings: the user’s level of experience and the distinct cannabinoid and terpene content of the particular weed used.
Cannabis Experience And Anxiety
In the amygdala, THC can stimulate the process that produces a sense of fear, panic, and paranoia. As a result, weed can make you feel more frightened, anxious and paranoid. That can happen even when there is no actual reason to be afraid: you can get paranoid even without a stimulus to justify the feeling.
Interestingly, research indicates that this effect mainly occurs in occasional or inexperienced cannabis users. That could be due to feedback loops, which work as follows. Some immediate effects of cannabis on the body, such as an increased heart rate, can cause you to think you’re in a state of panic. That thought can cause your brain to crank up the panic response, causing an even deeper sensation of panic. As you can see, this results in a vicious cycle. Weed induced paranoia is literally ‘all in your head’.
Other personal factors add to the equation, including the following:
- Genetic profile
- Mental health history
- Basic anxiety levels
THC In Cannabis And Anxiety Regulation
On the other hand, the same THC cannabinoid can cause feelings of deep relaxation and mental calm. If that happens, the feedback loop discussed above can work in the opposite direction. You smoke, you feel relaxed, and your brain responds by producing even more ‘relaxed and happy compounds’ into the bloodstream.
The precise mechanisms governing cannabis and anxiety are still being investigated. Nonetheless, it is a fact that many people use weed to reduce their anxiety, stress and fear in troubled times. A 2018 survey showed that over 80% of US respondents believed cannabis had (medical) benefits, including fear and anxiety reducing capacities.
Apparently, how we interpret the effect of cannabis (relaxed or alert and paranoid) determines whether it causes anxiety or a sense of calm. There is, however, another important factor influencing how cannabis and anxiety relate. In addition to THC and your personal experience, anxiety rises and falls along with the plant compounds present in the particular strain you smoke, vape, or eat. Let’s have a closer look at these other compounds.
The Role Of CBD In The Cannabis And Anxiety Relationship
Cannabis contains many more (organic) compounds than THC alone. Some of these can have a direct effect on feelings of fear and anxiety. Most important among these ‘other cannabinoids’ is CBD, or cannabidiol. In recent years, researchers have zoomed in on the many potential health benefits of CBD. We’re still waiting for definitive proof (medical studies take a long time), but there are serious indications that CBD can help counter a wide range of conditions and symptoms. These include stress, sleeplessness, inflammation, pain, appetite, and yes, fear and anxiety. It seems as though using CBD-rich cannabis and anxiety reduction may indeed be related.
CBD Against Fear
So how can CBD work against such diverse problems, you wonder? Again, the answer involves the endocannabinoid system. The ECS reaches all throughout the body and brain. Whereas THC mostly affects the brain part of the ECS, CBD mostly operates on the peripheral nervous system spread all over the body. Recent studies show that CBD can help reduce anxiety, although further research is needed before making any hard medical claims. Still, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, people increasingly look for natural ways to keep their sense of anxiety in check. The fact that CBD supplement sales are soaring indicate that cannabis and fear reduction could be positively related in more than one way. Deciding to grow or smoke CBD-rich weed strains might prove helpful for anyone trying to control the increased fear and anxiety we face today.
CBD can actually dampen the potential fear-inducing effects of THC, too. That means picking weed with higher CBD to THC ratios could further help you keep any anxiety in check. Apart from smoking cannabis, though, using CBD Supplements such as CBD Oil, CBD Gummies, or CBD Tablets is a great way to counter stress, anxiety, and fear for an ever increasing group of people.
Picking The Right Weed Strain: Cannabinoid And Terpene Profiles
The cannabinoid composition of a strain (THC to CBD ratio, in this case) is not the only factor to consider. Picking the best cannabis strain for your anxiety also involves the terpenes contained in the plant. Terpenes are compounds that protect cannabis crops from pests and fungus. They also produce the unique smell and flavour of every distinct strain. Terpenes from all sorts of plants have been used in aromatherapy for centuries. Scents have the capacity to promote or suppress certain emotions in humans. On a chemical level, terpenes can also affect how cannabinoids work in the body through a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. This adds a third layer to the potential of cannabis and anxiety regulation: we now have THC, CBD, and terpenes to consider.
Growing Cannabis And Anxiety Reduction
Cannabis can contain many different terpenes, but for anyone interested in cannabis and anxiety relief, these are three terpenes to ask for at your local dispensary:
Growing your own weed to protect yourself from the anxiety of the months ahead seems like a good idea, too. This is true whether you grow weed for personal use, or to help others deal with their fears in these pandemic times. The AG seeds range contains several superb strains that are especially suited for anxiety and fear reduction. White Choco is a fine example with high stress relief potential, as are strains like Lemon Ice and Fatkid’s Cake. These contain high levels of terpenes that can help control fear and anxiety.
Another good option is growing CBD-rich cannabis strains. Our Compromise CBD and Blue Monkey CBD strains are perfect for this. Of course, you could also go for immediate results and try our high quality, lab tested CBD supplements. Out for a real treat? Grab some CBD Gummies or delicious CBD Chocolates. Staying happy through the combined effects of cannabinoids, terpenes and some tasty candy or chocolate seems a sensible and natural way to get you through the COVID-19 crisis without unnecessary fear!
Whatever you prefer, you now know that cannabis gives you plenty of options to keep your fear and anxiety under control – even in strange, complex, and sometimes outright frightening times like these. Hop over to the webshop and find your perfect match!