Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
- Why does THC have two different effects?
- Are there any other cannabinoids that have a similar effect?
- Are there any cannabinoids with the opposite effect THC has?
- How Do You Prevent or Stop an Anxiety or Panic Attack Arising From Cannabis Use?
- Any advice on dosing cannabis to prevent anxiety and paranoia?
Cannabis is known to make people feel relaxed, but it’s similarly well-known that a little bit too much can lead to anxiety and paranoia. Several studies have confirmed that a little bit of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has anti-anxiety effects, but consuming too much has the opposite effect. Cannabinoids like THC therefore have what are called “biphasic effects”. This means the product delivers effects on a scale which looks like this:
Take too little, and the effects won’t be felt, but take too much, and the effects could be negative. The trick is to find the optimal dose. However, the optimal dose is different for everyone so you may need to experiment to find out what works for you.
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Why does THC have two different effects?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is complex, and we have much to understand about how cannabinoids interact with it. It seems that activating CB1 receptors can cause psychoactive, sedative, anti-nausea and appetite-increasing effects, but activating them too much can increase the chances of anxiety and paranoia.
Science doesn’t yet understand why this is, but we know that endocannabinoids work to keep our bodies in balance. They modulate stress and reward networks, consisting of the endocannabinoid system ECS, dopamine system, and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. These networks establish the balance between distress and well-being. Over-activating these networks can knock them off-balance, causing anxiety rather than reducing it.
Are there any other cannabinoids that have a similar effect?
The recently-discovered tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP), which is more potent than THC, could certainly have similar effects as THC in high doses. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is anti-psychoactive in low doses, but is psychoactive in higher doses. High doses of THCV combined with high doses of THC may increase the chances of experiencing anxiety and paranoia.
Are there any cannabinoids with the opposite effect THC has?
CBD does not necessarily have the “opposite” effect of THC in the strictest sense, but it does block THC’s psychoactive effects to a certain extent. CBD also has anti-anxiety effects at any dose, and doesn’t have the biphasic effects THC has – in other words, taking too much CBD won’t cause anxiety. This is because CBD prevents the over-stimulating effects that THC can have on the brain. THC’s psychoactivity is due to a molecule in the brain’s hippocampus called extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK). CBD essentially regulates the production of this compound.
THC’s and CBD’s parent cannabinoid, cannabigerol (CBG), partially “turns off” CB1 receptors. This means that, like CBD, CBG can block THC’s psychoactive effect to a certain extent. CBG also has anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties, and could help new brain cells grow (neurogenesis).
Low doses of THCV can be said to truly have the opposite effect of THC, as THCV binds to the CB1 receptors as well as partially turning them off. THCV can also curb hunger, and has a more awakening or energizing effect.
How Do You Prevent or Stop an Anxiety or Panic Attack Arising From Cannabis Use?
We have written on this in more depth in our article ‘5 Ways to Counteract a Negative Marijuana Experience’, where we give the following advice:
- Rest, relax and don’t panic – put yourself in an environment where you’re comfortable and at ease, and remember that it’ll all be over soon. Soothing music can help in such circumstances.
- A hot shower or bath may help reduce any feelings of nausea.
- Have a mug of hot herbal tea such as chamomile, which can have sedative effects.
- Talk to someone and keep your mind off any negative thoughts.
- Black peppercorns – black pepper contains the terpene-cannabinoid, beta-caryophyllene. Beta-caryophyllene also has anti-anxiety and painkilling (analgesic) effects, and may also help refresh or awaken one’s senses when stuck in a paranoid or anxiety-induced thought loop.
- Using terpenes like pinene, which can also mitigate some of the negative effects high doses of THC may have, especially on short-term memory.
- Using CBD in equal or greater ratios compared to THC.
Any advice on dosing cannabis to prevent anxiety and paranoia?
You can read about dosing cannabis in more detail here. When it comes to preventing anxiety and paranoia in particular, here’s some advice:
- Microdose THC – don’t go overboard
- Be particularly careful with edibles, as THC is more potent when eaten
- CBD is your friend – utilize strains and products high in CBD
- CBG, beta-caryophyllene and pinene all of stress-busting properties, and can also mitigate some of the effects of THC
- Cannabinol (CBN) can be useful if you’re seeking a sedative effect with less of the psychoactivity of THC
- When trying a new product, do so in a comfortable environment and test it out to see what sort of effect it has on you
If you suffer from anxiety and you’re finding that prescription antidepressants or sedatives are having little effect (or even a negative effect) on you, then you can speak to a medical marijuana doctor online with Leafwell today!
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