Anxiety is our friend.
Awareness of threats and connection to past trauma are essential to our survival, instinctual responses rooted so deep in our code that they are with us constantly—even as we sleep. But when those alarms ring too loudly, or for too long, our anxiety can range from uncomfortable to crippling.
When people search for cannabis therapy relief, anxiety ranks up there with insomnia and chronic pain in terms of interest, according to Eaze Insights data analysis. It’s little wonder that as people seek ways to curb alcohol and prescription drugs dependency, they become more cannabis-curious.
But cannabis takes a paradoxical path to helping with anxiety, because it’s also known to cause anxiety. Some people have had exclusively anxious experiences with cannabis. Experienced consumers can sometimes have an anxious session, too.
No matter your experience level, it can feel unpleasant, and almost always has to do with a too-high dose of THC. There are ways to avoid this safely, but they require some patience and experimentation, a process of slowly turning up the volume over multiple sessions.
Start mellow, stay mellow.
Demand for high-THC experiences has flooded the market with products that will definitely get you very high—and that’s not where you want to start.
High THC strains and products are great for pain relief, extreme focus and all-night Netflix binges, but when it comes to daytime use, even a little bit can be too much. As experienced users know, “a little makes you mellow, a little more can give you ‘The Fear'” writes anxiety specialist Dr. Tracy Foose, a Mill Valley, California, psychiatrist and UCSF associate professor, in Greenstate.
And here’s where it gets tricky: Foose says the dose window between happy and anxious can be extremely narrow, “especially for the new or infrequent user.”
This was demonstrated in a University of Chicago study of irregular cannabis users who felt mild mood elevation at 7.5 mg of edible THC, but anxious at 12.5 mg—the difference being “all but the feet of one gummy bear [vs.] a whole bear plus the head of another.”
With regular use, the window widens significantly as consumers experience less anxiety at all dosages. And with today’s precisely dosed edible brands, you know what you’re getting.
Looking for symptom relief and no high? Try CBD-only.
There are plenty of options to try. CBD is a great place to start.
The second-most common compound found in the cannabis plant interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid signals like THC, but it does not make you feel high like THC. The two compounds work best when presented in concert, but CBD all by itself has shown promise in a number of neuropathic therapies, from epilepsy to addiction.
Pure, 100% CBD vaporizers, tinctures and edibles are a safe, low-stakes way to find out if CBD moves the needle on your anxiety. Their subtle calming and relaxing effects can create a sense of overall well-being that doesn’t bring any of the intense euphoria, mental confusion—and yes, anxiety—that can be associated with THC in any dosage.
And unlike with THC, you can’t easily overdo it with CBD. No amount has shown to be toxic or create adverse effects on people or animals. Start with the smallest dose possible and work your way up to a point where you feel comfortable.
For fast and more effective relief, add a dash of THC.
As we said before, CBD and THC seem to do their best work together—think of them as the treble and bass of cannabinoids. If you need something more potent and fast-acting, you’ll want this dynamic duo in action at a more balanced dose.
Not all cannabis flower has CBD, and high-CBD strains are hard to come by. But there are plenty of products—mostly vapes and edibles—that amplify the CBD-to-THC ratio, giving consumers an effect heavily weighted toward relaxation and calm, with just a slight lift beneath the surface.
If you want something potent and fast-acting but don’t want to get too spun, 1:1 ratio vaporizers are a great way to start going low and slow. Take only one or two small inhalations your first time, wait at least 20 minutes and repeat. Work toward a place where you feel relief setting in but are still comfortable.
And for fans of flower, indica and hybrid strains with enough CBD to reflect in the labeling (or even sativa strains with high CBD, like Jack Herer) can be great for anti-anxiety and daytime use. But indica is always a good bet.
The same rule of thumb applies: Start with just a little bit, take your time adjusting and ease up when you’re in the right zone.
Or maybe what you need is deep, heavy relaxation.
It’s been a grind. You’re wound up like a coil. The day ahead isn’t looking any easier. And you are not afraid to get high.
Then what you want is something purple, something kush, something indica. For reasons that aren’t wholly understood but are widely accepted, indica products just seem to have the effect of settling us down, floating us off into blissful relaxation, whether it’s bedtime or just midday me-time.
Maybe it’s the tendency toward higher CBD, or a perhaps different profile of terpenes, essential oils that give all plants their unique smells and flavors but also steer the effects of any given high. Whatever it is, these strains and products are the most likely to take you to that place where anxiety does not tread.