Don’t worry, be happy: the latest on cannabis and anxiety
Cannabis and anxiety are a curious duo. Some people consume the plant to quell their worries, while others stay far away because taking a puff makes them feel that familiar dread. In the worst cases, cannabis-induced anxiety may lead to an emergency room visit.
Research continues centering on this combo, seeking to understand how a bit of weed could inspire such varying reactions from one anxious party to another. Each focused study, trial, and review pieces together the mechanism at play.
Let’s take a dive into some recently published studies covering anxiety and the cannabis plant.
CBD and worriers
People with anxiety often get lost in worry. One study sought to understand how CBD might impact this symptom. The double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial also aimed to predict the correct dosage to combat worry.
The cohort either received a placebo, a commercial dose of CBD (50 mg), or a perceived high dose of CBD (300mg). Additionally, there was an inquiry into the difference between taking CBD once versus a persistent two-week regimen.
Results showed that one dose of CBD didn’t have much effect in reducing worry and other symptoms of anxiety. Neither CBD dose reduced worry after two weeks either. However, after a two-week regimen, the 300mg dose did quell physical symptoms of anxiety.
These findings show that CBD may not impact the cognitive symptoms of anxiety (like worry), but may reduce the physical aspects of the disorder. It also indicates that the dose necessary for anxiety is far from fiscally accessible in the commercial CBD market. Many bottles of CBD oil contain 100mg of CBD in total and cost anywhere from $30 to $300.
Adverse effects of cannabis for anxiety
Another recently published study focused on cannabis treatment for anxiety and PTSD. Adverse events (AEs) like blurry vision, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, and problems with balance, can limit current anxiety medications.
This study aimed to gauge the possible AEs of cannabis treatment for anxiety and PTSD. The secondary goal was to understand the effectiveness of various cannabinoid formulations.
The CA Clinics Observational Study (CACOS) gathered patient-reported data from 2018-2021. CACOS is an ongoing survey of Australia’s medical cannabis program. Patients fill out questionnaires when signing up. Additional surveys are completed over time to measure the impact of cannabis medicine.
This analysis pulled every patient with an anxiety disorder in the program, totaling 198 participants in the three-year span. Researchers compared their baseline survey with at least one survey filled out after filling out their weed prescription.
The cohort ended up 53 percent female, with an average age of 48. They were observed for an average of 154 days. Of the 198 participants, 57 were diagnosed with PTSD, while 141 had unspecified anxiety disorders.
Patients in the survey were prescribed different formulations of CBD and THC. They self-reported their mL consumption, and researchers calculated the mg/day. Only patients taking capsules or oral liquid were considered due to precise dosing. Inhalation methods can have varying absorption.
To understand the cohort, researchers split them into five consumption groups:
- CBD only
- THC only
- CBD dominant
- THC dominant
- 1:1 or equally balanced
To be considered “dominant” in one cannabinoid there had to be a concentration of at least 1.5x higher. If patients switched from one group to another between survey periods they were either in both groups or neither. The choice was dependent on whether they were still using an ingestible product.
Those taking the THC-dominant, CBD-only, and balanced formulations were “associated with significant improvements in anxiety symptoms.” From the full cohort, 53 percent were classified as having a “clinically meaningful improvement in their anxiety levels.”
A similar number (52.6 percent) of PTSD patients reported a clinical improvement in anxiety and depression. These outcomes were more prominent with patients taking CBD-only or 1:1 balanced formulations.
This subset of patients reported the THC-dominant, CBD-only, and 1:1 options proved helpful with fatigue. They also clocked CBD-only and 1:1 products as effective at improving social skills.
Unspecified anxiety patients reported that CBD-only and balanced formulations relieved depression. All but the THC-only formula helped with fatigue, and the THC-dominant showed to lubricate social situations for this sect of the cohort.
Many patients in the study had no AEs, many of which were on the CBD-only regimen. The psychological AEs listed were minor, including 31 percent experiencing drowsiness, 9.5 percent with anxiety, and 5.1 percent with euphoria. Reported anxiety simply marks that the condition persisted even with medical cannabis.
There were also some physical AEs including 32.6 percent of respondents reporting dry mouth, 18.5 percent with fatigue, and 10.9 percent experiencing dizziness.
The data gathered shows that CBD formulations are most effective for patients with PTSD and anxiety disorders. It also shows that AEs from cannabis treatments may be less troublesome than current pharmaceutical options.
Both studies add to the tapestry being woven around cannabis research. When it comes to anxiety and the plant, the treatment is nuanced. Some patients find anxiety relief from cannabis, while it can exacerbate others. More inquiry could illuminate the opaque circumstances at play, and these findings keep the engine moving toward that goal.