Our body has an endocannabinoid system, which is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids. These are neurotransmitters that bind to receptors and allow us to feel the effects of cannabis.
According to Healthline, when you consume THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis and is known sometimes to cause paranoia, it binds to receptors in the part of your brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala’s job is to regulate fear and the accompanying paranoia and anxiety. For some, when you over-consume THC, the amygdala can become over-stimulated. This can lead to the anxiety and paranoia that THC is known for. The cannabinoids matter. While THC can cause anxiety, cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychoactive and doesn’t tend to create stress. It’s essential to understand dosage, set, setting, and the various methods of intake and strains to stay ahead of paranoia. Keep reading to learn why cannabis makes some people more anxious than others, how to prevent it, and grounding tips should you find yourself feeling anxious.
Why does cannabis make some people feel more anxious than others?
Cannabis affects everyone differently. Some people use cannabis to treat anxiety successfully. According to a 2017 national survey, more than 9,000 Americans found that 81 percent believed marijuana had health benefits. About half of these respondents listed “anxiety, stress, and depression relief” as potential benefits. Meanwhile, for others, it can raise anxiety levels.
One 2019 animal study suggests that when cannabis affects the front region of the brain, anxiety decreases as relaxation increases. This is because some people have more receptors in this area. However, if more THC activity occurs in the back of the brain, the opposite happens. Anxiety rises.
Biological sex may also play a role. For example, a 2014 animal study suggests that those with higher estrogen levels were more sensitive to cannabis by up to 30 percent.
Outside of our brains, external factors play a role in how cannabis affects anxiety. For example, research shows that higher THC strains can cause more stress than lower ones. According to research from 2017, a study that followed 42 adults suggests that consuming 7.5 mg of THC lowered negative emotions, while a higher dose of 12.5 mg raised those same negative feelings.
Of course, tolerance levels vary greatly. While even 10 mg of THC may be too much for a new consumer, medical patients often take 100 mg or higher with few adverse effects.
How can you prevent cannabis-induced anxiety?
Set and setting play a massive role in any cannabis or psychedelic experience. Set refers to your mindset. Ideally, you will feel calm and safe when you take cannabis. However, if you’re experiencing some anxiety and using cannabis to treat that, take a few moments to meditate to ground yourself. Then, inhale deeply, and enjoy the euphoria of cannabis. It can enhance moods, so if you’re happy, get ready to be happier. However, if you’re in a dark place mentally, cannabis may help numb the pain, but it could also exacerbate it.
For instance, gobbling down weed gummies right after discovering a partner is cheating on you could lead to intensified panic that will wreak havoc on your state of mind.
Setting refers to the physical place that you are in. If you eat a high-THC edible in a stressful office environment, for instance, you are likely to experience paranoia. Can your co-workers and bosses tell that you’re high? Are there typos in your emails? But, wait, does the whole office know? Are you going to get fired? Of course, every job is different, and plenty of medical patients do better at work after consuming their medicine. But, as a rule of thumb, you want to take cannabis in a calm and serene setting, such as hanging out with friends, at a concert, or on a nature walk.
The best way to prevent cannabis-induced anxiety is to become familiar with your body’s response. Thankfully, in most cases, cannabis is very physically safe. Pretty much the worst thing that can happen is that you get too high and become uncomfortable, thanks to the anxiety.
Different methods of intake produce various forms of results. Inhalation has an early onset time, roughly ten minutes, but will be gone by two to four hours. When you inhale, start with two puffs, wait ten minutes, and take more if needed.
Smoking or vaping are great options for those who only want to be high for a short time. Meanwhile, edibles can take up to two hours to kick in but last up to six to eight hours. A starting dose for someone new to edibles is between 5 mg to 10 mg.
The differences in cannabis are more complicated than strains. For example, an Indica grown in one place will be different than the same strain grown somewhere with different rainfall, soil, and sunlight. This does make it challenging to find a strain that’s right for you, so consider working with a doctor or budtender to find the right cannabinoids for your system.
Ways to reduce cannabis-induced anxiety:
If you find yourself high and stressed out, here are some safe activities to bring you back to Earth.
- Switch up your mindset. Listen to relaxing music, smell some calming lavender oil, or ask a trusted friend to talk you out of it.
- Should you find yourself stoned and anxious somewhere inside that makes you feel claustrophobic, go for a walk with a trusted friend to change your setting.
- Get in some light exercise. Walking or dancing are fun ways to reconnect with your body and lower stress levels while grounding yourself in the present.
- Have some CBD. While more research is needed, there are indications that if you take too much THC, you can lower the high by taking CBD. For fast results, smoke or vape some CBD or opt for a sublingual, so it takes effect and fights anxiety fast.
- Try meditation. It’s a skill, but you can learn to ride the wave of a high. Try sitting and practicing deep breathing exercises to anchor yourself in the now and connect with your stoned experience.
Do you have tricks for dealing with cannabis anxiety? Take care of yourself, be safe and responsible, and most importantly, have fun.