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Marijuana and Anxiety in PA: 1 Year Later

July 11, 2020 marks the one-year anniversary that anxiety disorders were approved conditions for medical marijuana use in the state of Pennsylvania. Where are we today regarding marijuana and anxiety in PA? Is using medical marijuana for anxiety still considered an effective treatment? Today, we’ll explore these questions, as well as taking a closer look at some of the basics of anxiety and marijuana.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety continues to be a disorder that plagues many across the nation. Anxiety does not discriminate—it knows no age, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. While it is normal to experience occasional anxiety, those that suffer from an anxiety disorder have persistent and recurring intrusive thoughts and concerns. This affects their daily life, as some avoid situations completely out of worry or fear. There are several types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Often, those that suffer from anxiety disorders can also suffer from depression concurrently.

It is important to understand that anxiety disorders are real and serious medical conditions, just like any other physical disorder can be real and serious. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that approximately one in five suffer from an anxiety disorder. Sadly, and despite the fact that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment.

One such treatment option is medical marijuana. Pennsylvanians can obtain a medical marijuana card to treat anxiety. Let’s explore the relationship between anxiety and marijuana in PA.

Marijuana Basics: Cannabinoids and Strains

Marijuana is made up of cannabinoids. These compounds act on various receptors in the brain that play an important role in various bodily processes, such as memory, perception of pain, mood, and appetite. The two most commonly known cannabinoids are CBD and THC:

  • CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-intoxicating compound used as therapy and treatment for a large range of medical conditions.
  • THC, or tetrahydrocannabidiol, is the psychoactive compound associated with the hallucinogenic effects of cannabis.

Strains of cannabis exhibit certain characteristics and can often be blended to produce certain effects. The most common way to think about strains is to consider the similarities and differences between indica vs. sativa.

  • Sativa strains can increase serotonin levels and elevate mood, stimulate focus and creativity, and can be known for an “energizing” effect.
  • Indica strains can stimulate appetite, promote muscle relaxation, and are known for the “couch-lock” effect.

Marijuana and Anxiety Studies

When evaluating the relationship between marijuana and anxiety in PA, it’s important to ask just how effective medical marijuana can be in treating anxiety? To date, studies on the topic have shown mixed results.

It has been shown that marijuana, specifically CBD-dominant strains, can offer temporary relief for anxiety. When using medical marijuana to treat anxiety, strains with a high level of CBD and a lower level of THC tend to be most effective. Of particular note, CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. Several 2019 studies showed that CBD reduced or improved anxiety and symptoms in patients with a variety of anxiety disorders.

To be clear, marijuana is not a “cure” for anxiety. Nor should marijuana, including CBD products, be used as long-term treatment for anxiety disorders. As those who suffer from anxiety disorders often suffer from depression as well, long-term use of marijuana has been shown to worsen the symptoms of depression.

Just as studies show mixed results on marijuana’s efficacy to treat anxiety, it’s important to use caution when using marijuana to treat anxiety as results can vary. Marijuana use can be incorporated with other treatments under the careful management and guide of a medical professional and healthcare professional. Prior to using marijuana to treat anxiety, be sure to:

  • Consult your treatment team: Discuss your interest to introduce marijuana as part of your treatment plan for your anxiety disorder with your medical doctor therapist. Your doctor can offer crucial medical guidance specific to you that other sources cannot offer. Your therapist can help you evaluate how effective marijuana is as treatment for your disorder. Your treatment team can also help you map and manage an effective treatment protocol, including dosage and frequency.
  • Consider Opting for CBD over THC: Choosing a product that contains primarily CBD, can be more effective for some patients.
  • Understand the interactions: Your doctor or pharmacist can help you better understand the interactions between medical marijuana products and other medications and supplements you may be taking. 
  • Only purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary: Purchasing marijuana from a dispensary is the safest way to purchase any cannabis product. Trained staff can help you find the correct strain appropriate for your symptoms. For more, here’s an article on some of the similarities and differences between medical marijuana vs. street marijuana.

What Strains Are Best for Anxiety?

It’s important to consider the cannabinoid profile when choosing a strain to treat anxiety. Generally, a strain that is CBD-dominant is recommended to treat anxiety, especially for new users. Some do find the high associated with THC to be relaxing, thus mitigating the symptoms of anxiety, but THC-dominant strains may actually increase anxiety in some patients. Below is a short list of CBD-dominant and THC-dominant strains.

CBD-dominant strains:

  • Lemon G
  • Harle Tsu
  • Pre-98 Bubba Kush
  • The Wife

THC-dominant strains:

There are also strains with a balanced cannabinoid profile like Harlequin. Be sure to consult a pharmacist or PCC to determine the best strain for you.  

At Solevo Wellness, the health and wellness of our patients is our first priority. In light of the current pandemic, we have options available to reserve medical marijuana online in addition to at our dispensary locations.

If you have additional questions, please check out our FAQ page or follow us on Facebook and direct message our team anytime.