The Trick to Reducing Anxiety with Marijuana
It doesn't take long for a new cannabis patient to realize that high THC sativa strains make them anxious. Sativa strains like Ghost Train Haze sound fun - cerebral and energetic and creative, perfect! But after smoking/vaping, that fun sativa feels like an overdose of Adderall and espresso.
So the budtender tells that new cannabis patient to try indica strains to reduce their anxiety. So they pick up some Granddaddy Purps, which also makes them feel anxious.
Now the new cannabis patient panics at the thought of trying something else from the dispensary. On the one hand, cannabis in an excellent anti-anxiety medication that can also reduce depression and pain. On the other, cannabis can increase anxiety to the point where you think you're having a panic attack.
How can an anti-anxiety medicine also increase the anxiety it's supposed to get rid of? What are we supposed to do?
It turns out, there is a trick to it.
Don't get high. The anxiety is coming from the THC, so we want to limit how much THC we consume at a time. Choose edibles, concentrates and flower strains with small amounts of THC and lots of CBD. Studies have shown that more than 10 mg of THC increases anxiety, while a smaller dose will reduce anxiety.
Marijuana-induced anxiety, panic and paranoia is simply a result of overdoing it. Sticking to smaller doses is easy with edibles, but how do we know how much is enough when we smoke or vape? "One puff is enough."
Social anxiety can be treated with one puff - the anxiety disappears and we feel comfortable talking to new people. But if we try to treat our social anxiety with more than one puff - a whole joint or a 20 minute vaping session - we get too high and struggle to speak and end up huddled in a corner of the party while we wait for the Uber.
"Yeah, but 10 mg edibles don't affect me, my tolerance is too high."
I hear you - my tolerance is too high, too. But to keep anxiety at bay, it is better to reduce your tolerance with a short marijuana break and stick to the one puff rule, rather than taking the second puff.
If you want to reduce anxiety with cannabis, follow these tips:
1. Low dose. 10 mg THC or less in an edible, and if inhaling - one puff is enough. If you're high, you went too far. Every morning I eat a tiny bit of co2 extracted cannabis oil with less than 10 mg THC and at least 20 mg CBD. This little dab of oil reduces my anxiety, eliminates my depression, controls my appetite and reduces my back pain all day.
2. THC/CBD strains. Stick to strains with a healthy amount of CBD. Harlequin, AC/DC, Pure Love, Cannatonic - look for THC potency less than 15% and more than 5% CBD. CBD is what is reducing your anxiety, so do not skip it. Ask your budtender for "1:1 THC and CBD" strains. (Pronounced "once to one")
3. Limonene. Look for strains with this terpene - it is an anti-depressant and smells like citrus.
But here's the problem - it is very difficult to find a strain with both CBD and limonene. Most CBD rich strains tend to be indica, and limonene tends to be found in sativa strains. To solve this problem, I buy an eighth of a lemony, THC sativa AND I buy an eighth of a CBD rich, low THC strain, and then I grind them up and mix them together into a quarter of CBD and limonene rich awesomeness. This is my recreational, "just for fun" blend that boosts my creativity and mood without increasing my anxiety.
4. Meditate AND Medicate. Take time each day to focus on your breathing and settle yourself. But even with a regular meditation practice, sometimes anxiety flares up and we need to control it. I do most of my foxhole meditating when I'm in the car and stuck in traffic.
To instantly quash an anxiety flare-up - close your eyes, inhale deeply and let it out slowly. Take another deep breath and think about straightening your spine and dropping your shoulders. Scrunch up and squeeze all of the muscles in your face, then relax them to reduce tension around your eyes.
5. Restorative yoga. The goal is to switch the nervous system from "fight or flight" to "rest and digest", so we want to lay down, wrap ourselves in blankets and doze. Legs up the wall is my ultimate favorite resting pose - simply lay down on the floor, with your butt close to the wall. Lay down and swing your legs up, then relax every muscle for 10-20 minutes. This supported inversion gives you all the benefits of standing on your head, without having to actually stand on your head.
If you have any questions about using cannabis to treat anxiety, leave them in the comments, and