Did you know that stress and anxiety disorders are now the biggest killers across the U.S.?
With around 75% of Americans admitting they regularly experience symptoms of stress, and a massive 40 million being affected by an anxiety disorder, the statistics are certainly concerning!
As standalone conditions, neither stress nor anxiety will cause death. However both of them – even though they are not fatal – can be incredibly harmful. Also the likelihood that they produce further health issues, including fatal ones, is pretty much guaranteed, which makes them two of the most underrated killers in the world.
In this article we are going to explore the effects of cannabis on stress and anxiety, to see if the myths around cannabis being great for relaxation live up to reality!
What Is Stress?
We all experience stress throughout our lives, and in small doses, it can actually be great for motivation and drive! It is thought that the ability to work towards something under stress or pressure often leads to higher results and improved achievement.
However, stress can quickly become a danger when it is regularly experienced. Our body often goes into “fight or flight” mode when we experience high levels of stress, meaning that the blood flow goes directly to the most critical muscles only needed for the situation. As a result of this, brain function is minimized leading to an inability to function properly, or even think straight.
If you can imagine being under this level of stress on a weekly or even daily basis, then it is easier to understand how stress can – and does – lead to more severe health conditions.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a general term used to encompass a variety of disorders that lead to feelings of nervousness, apprehension, worry, and fear. Universally overlooked as not being a severe or life-threatening condition, anxiety has exceptionally high chances of leading to more life-threatening conditions.
Of the millions of American’s that suffer from Anxiety, less than half of them will approach a professional for support, which leads to many individual’s disorders becoming worse over time.
There are many anxiety disorders; the following of which are the most common and well known:
- Generalized Anxiety (GAD)
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
Also, an overwhelming number of those suffering from one of the above anxiety disorders will ultimately end up with one or more of the following conditions:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Eating Disorders
- Cardiovascular Issues
How Can Stress and Anxiety Affect Us?
Like many ‘invisible conditions,’ both anxiety and stress are not as widely discussed in the media as are more obvious medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Also, there still seems to be a stigma attached to mental health conditions, which is a potential reason why so few sufferers ask for help!
While we may not instinctively link any of the conditions listed above to anxiety (which makes it harder to pinpoint or precisely define the disease), numerous studies into each of the conditions named have been directly related to feelings of anxiety or stress.
For instance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ‘Eating disorders commonly co-occur with anxiety disorders.’ Also, depression is strongly associated with anxiety, which can often lead to suicide.
There are simply too many occurrences to mention where anxiety or high-stress levels have led to detrimental physical and mental states of health!
While treatments for stress are less medicinal and more related to lifestyle, anxiety can be treated with a host of pharmaceutical drugs, as well as therapies. However, like with most conditions, pharmaceuticals can often lead to addiction or severe side-effects, and therapy can become very costly!
So with all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that more and more people are turning to cannabis as a more natural alternative to relieve their conditions.
Can Cannabis Help Relieve Stress and Anxiety?
For as long as it has been in the mainstream media, Cannabis has been portrayed as a high-inducing herb that allows for instant relaxation! This idea that weed can cure all your worries has been carried through the ages, and remains a common attribute of the herb today!
But how accurate is this idea? Can weed really resolve feelings of stress? And is it powerful enough to combat crippling anxieties? The studies report that there is some truth behind these beliefs – however, it is not quite as simple as it seems!
Plenty of research has been done over the years into the efficacy of cannabis for the treatment of stress and anxiety. However, there is barely any mention involved around the doses. Plenty of pro-weed sources say how fantastic cannabis is for treating stress and anxiety, but they seem to leave out carefully selected details!
So what isn’t being shared? It has been shown that while cannabis CAN help massively with anxiety and stress, it is completely reliant on the amount of cannabis consumed; too much THC will only serve to aggravate an already present anxiety disorder, while low amounts have been proven to have a significant impact on the user.
A group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University Of Chicago, IL, decided to expose the realities behind the misunderstood abilities of THC on stress. During their research, they looked at the effects of THC on three groups of people who had all used cannabis before, but did not regularly use it.
The first group was given a low dose of THC (7.5mg), the second was given a moderate dose (12.5mg), and the third was given a placebo containing no THC. All groups were put through some ‘high-stress’ scenarios, involving a job interview scenario and various tests.
The investigation took place during two, 4-hour sessions which were five days apart. At the end of the study, the results showed that those who had been given the low dose of THC reported less stress after taking the psychological tests than those on the placebo. It also showed that their stress went faster after the test was complete. However, those who had consumed the higher dose of THC actually reported a negative mood both before and after the tests, and felt the tests were challenging and threatening.
The results from this study show strong evidence for cannabinoids ability to influence our stress, and as a by-product, our levels of anxiety. Where things become confused and often misinterpreted is when it comes to the amounts consumed. The amounts of THC given during this test where only equal to a couple of puffs on a joint, but in reality, someone smoking weed is likely to be at it for a longer period, and consuming much higher levels of THC!
There is overwhelming evidence of cannabis use for medicinal purposes, and with the science behind how cannabinoids interact with our bodies now being well explored, there is no denying the plant’s ability to improve our state of mind when taken correctly. The bottom line is that no matter what some people might say or argue, marijuana is an excellent treatment for anxiety and depression in America!
As with most things, though, less is more when it comes to cannabis for stress and anxiety – for best results, take little and often!