We are living through an anxious time. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Alex Thomas, a cannabis consultant at RISE Dispensary in Naperville, Illinois, is seeing the stress in her customers and feels it herself.
“These days, I feel like everybody has some anxiety; the world is really hard,” she says. For Thomas, who is 31, cannabis has provided a natural and effective way to deal with chronic anxiety and panic attacks. “My brain is loud and annoying and very frustrating. It’s nice to have cannabis to calm that down, because man is it so loud sometimes.”
People with anxiety issues can find relief with cannabis, but it’s important to use with care, says Beth Whitley, an outreach specialist for RISE Dispensaries in Illinois. Choosing a product with the correct chemical makeup is the key to achieving relaxing effects.
Does Marijuana Help with Anxiety?
You might have heard someone say that marijuana makes them paranoid, or you might have felt that way yourself. You probably also know someone who uses cannabis to relax and relieve stress. All this is to say: The relationship between marijuana and anxiety is complex.
Our differing experiences with cannabis are dependent on our own body chemistry as well as the unique cannabinoid and terpene profile of the product. Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are compounds in cannabis that interact with our endocannabinoid system to cause various effects. Terpenes are the organic compounds that give many foods and plants, including cannabis, their smell and flavor.
If that sounds complicated, don’t worry—you don’t have to figure it out for yourself. The team at RISE is ready to help.
“I love being able to help somebody with their mental pain,” Thomas says. “That’s why I’m in this industry: I want to be able to help people.”
The Best Strains of Cannabis for Anxiety
For example: Cannabis with high levels of linalool, found in lavender and berries, and myrcene, found in mangoes, can be relaxing and calming. On the other hand, a product with a lot of pinene can prompt mental flashbacks, which can be upsetting, and terpinolene may mimic physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate and alertness.
That does not mean that if you have anxiety you should never ingest cannabis with those specific terpenes, but you’ll want to choose strains and products that primarily express relaxing terpenes.
Finally, there’s THC, the psychoactive compound that’s responsible for the high associated with cannabis. Too much THC can lead to feeling out of control, which can be anxiety-provoking. Whitley advises that people with anxiety “start low and go slow” and keep a cannabis journal to track how different doses, strains and products affect them. You can bring that information to a cannabis consultant at RISE to help inform your next purchase.
“We have so many varieties, we really can personalize each person’s experience,” Whitley says.
Can You Get Medical Marijuana for Anxiety?
Some states with medical marijuana consider anxiety a qualifying condition for a medical cannabis card and others don’t. For example, in Pennsylvania, anxiety disorders is one of 23 qualifying conditions for a medical card. In Illinois, where both medical and recreational cannabis are legal, anxiety is not a qualifying condition for a medical card. But because cannabis is legal for adult use, people who struggle with anxiety can purchase products without a medical card.
“Talk to the people who work in the dispensary, because they know the products very well,” Whitley says. “Tell us about your experiences and concerns, and know that no one is judging you. The more you share, the sooner we can get to that therapeutic place.”
Tips for Using Cannabis Safely
When Whitley talks to someone with anxiety, she offers this advice: If you want to experience a relaxing effect without the high, look to CBD products for anxiety relief. If you’re seeking the euphoric feelings provided by THC, Whitley recommends starting with a product with a 2:1 concentration of CBD to THC. Then, if you want more of an effect, you could try a 1:1 product. CBD can counteract the effects of THC, which is helpful for mitigating anxiety.
When you’re planning to use cannabis, be mindful of how you’re feeling mentally and your physical environment so that you are set up for the best possible experience, Whitley says. Try cannabis in a place you feel comfortable, like at home, and around people who make you feel at ease. And if you have questions about using cannabis alongside other anti-anxiety medications, ask a pharmacist or physician.
In these uncertain times, it’s important to remember that cannabis is a tool to improve anxiety, not a cure. Other parts of your wellness routine, like your diet, exercise and sleep, remain critical, Whitley says. “Cannabis in conjunction with a positive, well-rounded lifestyle can be really helpful when we’re experiencing all these things as a society.”
Find a RISE Dispensary nearby and give us a call or send us a message today.