Marijuana and Anxiety: Can Weed Cause Panic Attacks or Anxiety?

marijuana and anxietyMarijuana and anxiety have long been linked together in various ways throughout history. Currently, we have a huge population of people medicating their anxiety with marijuana so we know it is an effective tool. But, we also have a percentage of people who smoke marijuana and anxiety creeps into what should be a really comfortable mind space. Which begs the question, could the weed you are smoking be causing the anxiety you are feeling? The answer is quite simple, it could be or it could just be you boo. The amount of anxiety you will or will not experience after using marijuana is directly correlated to your emotional and chemical state of mind at the time you consume, and a little bit on what you are inhaling.

All stoners and anybody who has experimented with marijuana and anxiety understands what weed induced paranoia feels like. And, said stoner, probably has a story about feeling like they are going to die. Many stoners experience a panic attack after getting stoned for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Especially if you are already anxious and plagued with fear. Marijuana and anxiety could fill your head like water on the Titantic if you allow it.

What’s in a name?

There isn’t a psychological term used to describe the association between marijuana and anxiety, but there should be. It should sound like Weedanoia: Acute feelings of paranoia after smoking weed. In my mind’s eye I see Weedanoia right under the sub head, Marijuana and Anxiety in a big book of Psychological Terms. Weedanoia, the beyond belief terror of thinking somebody will know you are stoned when of course, you are actually stoned. Typically, most stoners are trying to hide that they are stoned and don’t want to be obvious about it. Hence, anxiety. The truth is everybody is different and will react differently to marijuana at different stages at different times and in different doses.

Weed is most likely not going to cause your panic attack, but it could exacerbate what you are currently going through and could trigger a panic attack and/or marijuana anxiety. Consulting a marijuana doctor is important for advice on strains and percentages and how to deal with marijuana and anxiety issues. It’s important to remember when it comes to marijuana and anxiety, that marijuana is safe, you can’t overdose on it, and your Weedanoia is only temporary. If you find yourself feeling anxious or experience “bad highs” every time you smoke, try a different strain. This can make all the difference.

Does cannabis cause anxiety?

You may be asking, “Why does weed give me anxiety?” Dr. Ruben Baler, a health scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tells us how cannabis can impact a person’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), causing anxiety and paranoia after getting stoned. “When talking about brain science and cannabis, it’s easy to be swept away by anecdotal evidence and sound bites. What the ECS does is it optimizes our brain between excitation and inhibition.

Fear stimuli that we can normally cope with can become unmanageable under the effects of marijuana because our fight-or-flight response gets disrupted. You may not be able to keep those stimuli under control because your ECS is so out of whack because of all the THC in your system.”

Dr. Baker reminds us the strangest thing about the ECS is that marijuana and anxiety could be an issue during one smoke session, then be a total non issue at a different session. Just as any slightly different chemicals in the brain can cause vastly different outward reactions, the differing components in any given cannabis strain can cause varying reactions on the inside.

Other studies have been completed that corroborate Dr. Baker’s findings on marijuana and anxiety. Scientists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada suggest that cannabinoids in marijuana affect the fight or flight center of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is constantly scanning everything we see and everything we do to help protect ourselves from dangerous situations. Its main purpose is to learn what to fear and how to respond to those fears. What they found in this study seemed to explain why some stoners have a tendency to feel paranoid.

The researchers at the University of Western Ontario tested the effect of blocking cannabinoid receptors called CB1 receptors found in the amygdala by using rats that were trained to fear certain smells. Researchers tested the effect of blocking cannabinoid receptors called CB1 receptors found in the amygdala. When CB1 receptors were blocked, the rats failed to respond to the scents that they were trained to fear. When researchers gave the rats synthetic THC that unblocked their CB1 receptors, the rats exhibited enhanced fear responses. This study suggests weed can definitely enhance fear-based learning which is why some stoners tend to overreact and lose their shit when stressful events happen.

anxiety when smoking weedYou’re not alone

Most stoners have a marijuana and anxiety story or should I say ‘Weednoid” story that makes absolutely no sense unless you were there or if you are super stoned. For example, once, I got super stoned with my boyfriend, and this was when my tolerance was just building, I couldn’t walk down a sidewalk from the car to his friend’s apartment. We had just hot boxed in the car and were parked on a very steep hill in San Francisco. I was wearing black leather boots with a 2 ½ heel. Not an unusual shoe or an unusual steep hill in the City. But, I was so paranoid I was going to fall down the hill while walking in my ever so high boots that I couldn’t take a step forward. I actually sat down at one point refusing to move because I felt like I was going to fall to my death. My boyfriend, now husband, had to take my hand and gently ease each step out of me as I clinged for life to his arm. Obviously, that was not a normal response to walking down a paved road in San Francisco. But it is a perfect anecdotal example of what marijuana and anxiety can look like. There was a slope, but no where near the slope that my marijuana induced paranoia told me it was. Of course, this feeling was temporary and hasn’t happened since. I think this kinda thing only actually happens once and then you know what to expect.

Another case and point on how marijuana and anxiety can affect and take hold of a situation. I have a friend who never smokes weed. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but there are people on this earth who don’t like to smoke weed in any of its glorious forms and one of those people happens to be one of my best friends. That is why I can tell the story in such intmate detail, because I know her like I know my own sister and I get her like I get my family. So, there we were one night at my other best friend’s house smoking weed out of a pipe and she decides she wants to take a hit. She never smokes weed unless second hand, but decided this night was the night to try. She took a minute sample from an already spent bowl and preceded to have one of the strangest trips I have ever witnessed. If I wasn’t there, I might not believe it, but because I saw it with my own two eyes and heard it with my own two ears I gotta believe it.

My no smoking friend thought all of the sudden she was in a movie directed by Ed Burns and believed we were all talking shit about her at the dinner table. She got super quiet at dinner and couldn’t stop staring at her plate. I remember asking her if she was okay and finally she snapped out of a silent funk that we all noticed. She then proceeded to tell us where her mind went and how she couldn’t believe we were all talking shit right in front of her. Suffice it to say, my no smoking friend, continues to be my no smoking friend and doesn’t enjoy herb to this day.

Anti-anxiety strains

The truth is most stoners know what strains work for them and stay away from that which causes the heart to beat fast and the mind to race. It’s pretty common knowledge indica dominant strains are most effective when trying to combat anxiety and sativa/THC should be dosed in small percentages depending on your tolerance. But, if you are looking for specific strains we got a wish list to give to your budtender and marijuana and anxiety should be a non issue.

The Marijuana Doctors recommend the below strains when combating anxiety.  They are the experts on weed and anxiety. Personally, Granddaddy Purple has and will always be my favorite strain and have never done me wrong.

  • Granddaddy Purple: Granddaddy Purple is a hybrid Indica strain that produces an incredibly relaxing effect. It also makes you feel euphoric, so it can help you manage depression if you have it. Other medical uses for Granddaddy Purple include pain, stress and insomnia.
  • Amnesia Haze: Unlike Granddaddy Purple, Amnesia Haze has about 20 percent Sativa in it, meaning it doesn’t make you as tired as a 100 percent Indica strain would. On the flip side, you may want to be extra careful when using Amnesia Haze, since the THC in Sativa can make you more anxious. When used by someone who reacts well to it, it boosts their mood and energy while calming them down.
  • Chocolate Chunk: As another 100 percent Indica strain, Chocolate Chunk provides full-body relaxation. Since it’s so potent, you may only need a small amount to get results.
  • Girl Scout Cookies: PTSD patients could benefit well from the Girl Scout Cookies strain due to its higher THC content. While THC exacerbates some anxiety disorders, it replaces some of the missing chemical compounds in a PTSD patient’s brain that affect memory.
  • Harlequin: Harlequin works similarly to Amnesia Haze, due to its small amount of THC. It relaxes users while keeping their minds clear and alert.
  • Northern Lights: The final strain on our list is another full Indica. Northern Lights provides stress relief, in addition to helping you sleep and relieving pain.

We all experience anxiety everyday and it is one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S.. According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America (ADAA) anxiety disorders impact 40 million adults, yet only about one-third of people dealing with it seek treatment. Legalization of marijuana is changing the scene and the nature of the anxiety levels. Historically, before legalization and recreational weed we all used to think we were going to get busted for smoking weed. And, marijuana and anxiety just went hand in hand. Marijuana and anxiety were like best friends back in the day before the concept of recreational weed. Now, in the day of legalization and every soccer mom has a vape pen, we can collectively all take a big inhale and let out a cloudy exhale of relief. Marijuana and anxiety no longer go hand in hand. The fear of getting caught is gone now and you just need to focus on what strains work for you.

Here’s how to cope

Another key element to embrace when dealing with marijuana and anxiety is to know if you are anxious about something before you get stoned, the chances are you are going to be anxious after you get stoned. Deal with what is bothering you first and then get stoned. But if you find yourself in trouble and you want to know how to stop a panic attack while high treat it like you would any other kind of panic attack. First remind yourself what you are feeling is temporary and will not last. Second, remember you are in control and can help yourself out of this temporary situation. Third, surround yourself around people and try to talk yourself out of it. Get out of your head when possible and put the focus on somebody or something else. Fourth, and final food, eat lots and lots of food to help absorb the THC in your system and hydrate with lots and lots of water.

So, is your weed making you anxious? Yeah, it might be, but if you are medicating with the right strain and using it accordingly the chances are your anxiety is being caused by other internal forces. Maybe the question you should be asking yourself isn’t why does weed give me anxiety, but why do I feel anxious all the time? Do a little self evaluation and try to figure out what triggers the anxiety while not being stoned. Weed and anxiety do not have to be frenemies and one should not be forcing the other to do anything. Weed and anxiety are friends at heart, eventually one always reassures the other of their value. We need our sense of flight or fight to remain active and alert and without it we may just all turn into a bunch dolts wandering around aimlessly not being afraid of anything. And, we need our weed to keep us in the moment and give pause to what is important. Weed and anxiety are two very important motivators for humankind and both deserve their stand on the podium.

Tell us what your favorite weednoid story?

Post by: @StonedandStuff
Stoned and Stuff is a writer, project manager and mother of 2 boys living in California. She his a frequent contributor to SSL.

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