Article written by
Shanti RyleContent Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Managing a social anxiety disorder can be challenging and frustrating, whether it’s a recent diagnosis or something you’ve navigated for years. Social interactions can feel impossible to manage, and sometimes it can even be scary to leave your house.
Cannabis has emerged as a potentially beneficial alternative treatment to help individuals with social and generalized anxiety disorders (SAD and GAD) overcome mental hurdles during social situations. If you’re curious about finding a medical marijuana-based option for managing your social anxiety, read on to learn how cannabis might help and our top strains (cultivars) to consider.
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How Cannabis Affects Social Anxiety
Little research on the subject seems to support cannabis as an effective, long-term treatment for individuals with social anxiety. Cannabis operates by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), responsible for maintaining homeostasis in various regulatory processes such as appetite, memory, immune response, metabolism, and stress response. Thanks to the ECS’ involvement with stress and anxiety, cannabis seems a natural fit for the job.
Cannabis also works in the body similarly to existing anxiety medications. Many of these medicines deal with GABA, one of your body’s neurotransmitters responsible for balancing anxiety levels throughout the body. Recent studies have shown that cannabis – particularly cannabidiol (CBD) – changes the activity of GABA in the body. This means that cannabis can be just as effective at managing stress levels as many common anti-anxiety prescription medicines.
Other studies have shown that cannabis can impact cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress levels, with high cortisol corresponding to high-stress levels and low amounts corresponding to low stress. When given marijuana, patients with anxiety in one study experienced noticeable drops in their cortisol levels, indicating that they were entering a more relaxed state.
Insomnia is another stressful and frustrating factor involved in many anxiety disorders. Cannabis offers a remedy in this arena, too, with research showing that sleep duration and quality drastically improved when treated with marijuana — particularly high-CBD strains. This improvement in sleep quality directly corresponds with decreased levels of perceived anxiety.
Finally, CBD shows exciting promise as a tool to reduce overall anxiety. In one study, individuals diagnosed with SAD were given CBD over several sessions. The researchers observed that blood flow to the cingulate cortex was increased, allowing for improved interpretation of other people’s reactions. At the same time, CBD reduces blood flow to the hippocampus, which is essential for forming memories. Overall, patients reported a significant decrease in subjective anxiety and improved quality of life.
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Best Ways to Use Cannabis for Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can feel like a constant, heavy burden but is unique to each individual, so the cannabis consumption method for treating it depends entirely on the person seeking to use it.
Smoking or vaping cannabis are two fast-acting consumption methods, as the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream via the lungs and circulate within 30 minutes throughout the body. Effects can last up to three hours, making it useful for shorter social events or running errands. Smoking and vaping are also more social consumption methods, which could offer a tool to relax into the habit of interacting with others.
Edibles offer a longer-lasting marijuana treatment for anxiety, though its onset time takes a little longer, up to 90 minutes, for effects to show. When purchased from dispensaries, edibles offer precise, reliable dosing that allows you to control the amount of cannabis you consume and avoid using too much, making you more anxious.
Keep in mind that not all cannabis strains will positively affect social anxiety; some varieties in particular, or too-potent amounts, can produce more stress and worsen your symptoms. Be sure to discuss your treatment options with your medical marijuana doctor and start with low, slow doses to figure out what works best for you.
Best Strains for Social Anxiety
Chocolate Chunk is a more physically-focused strain, reportedly known for inspiring deep, full-body relaxation. A little goes a long way with this highly potent strain, which contains high levels of carene and valencene – both of which have anti-inflammatory effects.
ACDC is a high-CBD strain that allows for measurable pain relief without the psychoactive effects of THC. Its high levels of CBD also offer anti-inflammatory benefits, helpful in controlling the chemical signaling involved with stress responses. Dominant terpenes in ACDC include myrcene and beta-caryophyllene.
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Northern Lights is an older and popular cannabis strain known for its relaxing, sedative properties. The cultivar contains more THC than CBD and a profile with more myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and pinene. These terpenes work together to relax patients and soothe stress sensations while cultivating happiness.
Harlequin contains approximately a 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC, allowing for decent stress relief from both cannabinoids but still a tempered psychoactive experience. Myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene are the most abundant terpenes in Harlequin.
Harle-Tsu is related to Harlequin. This award-winning strain averages around 13% CBD but often tests much higher, with less than 1% of THC. This ratio makes it a preferred choice for people looking to lower anxiety and boost their mood and focus. Harle-Tsu’s dominant terpenes include ocimene, myrcene, pinene, and terpinolene.
Critical Cure (aka “CBD Critical Cure) is a relaxing cultivar with a reported ability to relax tense muscles and slow down racing thoughts, making it a perfect strain for those with SAD who need to lower their stress levels. Geraniol, ocimene, myrcene and humulene are the dominant terpenes in Critical Cure.
This hybrid strain is known for its profoundly relaxing abilities, making it useful for those dealing with the stress of insomnia and tension. Its levels of linalool, a calming terpene, and camphene, a natural stress reliever, make it perfect for addressing evening-time panic attacks.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What strains are good for social anxiety?
Our list above covers a few options. However, no one size fits all, and you may want to experiment with different strains and doses to find what works best for you.
Is sativa or indica better for social anxiety?
Sativa and indica are terms used to describe the growing characteristics of the cannabis plant and its subspecies. Colloquially, they refer to whether a strain is an upper or a downer experience. Still, it depends on the strain’s chemovar: the collection of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds that contribute to a specific strain’s effect on someone’s system. Indica and sativa distinctions are mostly meaningless and often based on subjective experiences.
What is the best strain for being social?
Our list above covers a few options for soothing anxiety and making people feel more social. However, no one size fits all, and you may want to experiment with different strains and doses to find what works best for you.