Article written by
Dipak HemrajHead of Research and Education
Table of contents
Anxiety is a common condition that can be relieved by cannabis use, but the relationship between cannabis and anxiety has always been complicated. Studies have found that cannabis is great at providing anxiety relief, but it also has the potential to make anxiety worse.
Its ability to relieve and worsen anxiety might be due to the main active cannabinoids in cannabis: THC and CBD.
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How Cannabis Can Affect Anxiety Negatively
Cannabis strains (cultivars) affect everyone differently, and different strains of cannabis have a wide range of effects; some may reduce anxiety, while others may increase it. There are a few factors that cause marijuana strains to elicit symptoms of anxiety.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the compound in cannabis that is thought to have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties without the psychoactive, intoxicating effects that typically come from THC. It can be used for a wide range of therapeutic and relaxing effects.
Low doses of CBD (under 50 mg) can have stimulating effects, higher doses (250 mg and over) can have sedative effects, and both high and low doses can have anti-anxiety effects. It can also be used to dampen some of THC’s psychoactivity.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound within cannabis that produces the feelings of euphoria or the more psychedelic effects of marijuana. It can tend to increase feelings of anxiety in some users, especially in those who are already susceptible to it. As a universal rule, generally, low doses of THC may help reduce anxiety, whereas higher doses can prompt it.
THC can also have both stimulating and sedative effects, depending on the dose and combination of other terpenes and cannabinoids. It can have sedative effects if mixed with myrcene, linalool, humulene, and high doses of CBD. If it is combined with terpinolene (alpha-terpinene), limonene, beta-caryophyllene, and low doses of CBD, CBG, and THCV, it can have more stimulating effects.
Indica vs. Sativa
The two major cannabis categories — indica and sativa — don’t matter as much as the strain’s overall chemical profile. Generally, sativa strains are said to increase your energy and focus, while indica-dominant strains are known to produce more physical effects in the body.
However, this is not always the case, as there are few actual differences between most sativas and indicas available on the market. Ultimately, how much THC, CBD, and other compounds a cannabis plant has will determine whether it’s stimulating or sedative, not its indica or sativa designation. In other words: both indicas and sativas can reduce or increase anxiety depending on the individual strain.
Worst Strains for Anxiety
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper (JTR) is an energizing sativa strain (cultivar), which should be avoided if you tend to have anxiety. This strain is highly potent and has a THC content of about 20%. This strain can make the user feel disoriented, paranoid, and anxious due to the high THC content.
On the other hand, some people have reported utilizing JTR to manage their anxiety. Low doses of Jack the Ripper may be ideal for taking advantage of its anxiolytic effects.
Girl Scout Cookies
This strain has been popularized by Wiz Khalifa and is a hit amongst recreational users. Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) is an indica-dominant hybrid strain that gives the user a head high.
A head rush like the one provided by Girl Scout Cookies and its physically relaxing effects might not be great for those managing anxiety when used in high doses. It can increase panicked thoughts and has properties that might increase self-reflection. Contemplating life and all it has to offer sometimes isn’t great for someone looking to relieve their anxiety.
As with Jack the Ripper, people have reported using GSC for anxiety. This means that appropriate dosing is necessary to take advantage of this variety’s anti-anxiety properties.
Trainwreck is a very potent strain that might have anxiety-inducing effects and should be avoided by users managing anxiety, at least when using it in higher doses.
This strain is sativa-dominant and has high levels of THC. Using Trainwreck can give the user a headrush that may not be great for people with anxiety. However, some people with anxiety have reviewed this strain and said it was great. This further shows that the experience of a particular strain can differ for each individual.
Alaskan Thunderfuck (ATF)
ATF can give the user heightened mental effects, similar to a psychedelic head high. People often experience an intense head rush when using ATF. People managing anxiety should avoid using high doses of this strain as it can create a sense of paranoia resulting from producing a thought-provoking and inquisitive high.
This strain inspires an energizing effect and can be used to go about your daily routine with increased productivity and euphoria. It is a sativa with a high THC content, at around 19%, and a low CBD content, at about 0.14%. This strain can enhance focus but might also increase anxiety when used in high doses.
Creatives often use this strain to get their mind going, but in anxiety-prone individuals, it can produce racing thoughts and jitters. For people managing anxiety, it is wise to use low doses of cannabis to take advantage of its anti-anxiety effects.
This strain is a pure sativa and comes from South Africa. People describe a Durban Poison high as electric, similar to the ADHD medication, Adderall. High doses of this strain should be avoided if you experience anxiety.
Willie Nelson is a hard-hitting strain that’s not for the faint of heart. This strain has a high THC content, which tests at around 22%. The strain is known to increase the user’s energy and creativity. It is also sometimes used to treat nausea and can give the user euphoric feelings. The high level of THC in this strain can worsen anxiety symptoms when used in high doses.
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The Bottom Line
Finding the right strain of cannabis to treat your anxiety can sometimes be tricky, as the best marijuana strains for some may not be the best for others. Avoiding strains with high THC content is a good start if you have an anxiety disorder. Strains with high CBD and low to moderate levels of THC are best suited for people with anxiety, as CBD can have anxiolytic and relaxing effects.
While some strains to avoid if you want to keep your anxiety at bay include Durban Poison, Tangerine Dream, Trainwreck, Willie Nelson, and Girl Scout Cookies, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Some people have reported using these varieties to manage anxiety. In many instances, it is more about the dose than the strain itself, with low doses of THC-rich cannabis helping to reduce anxiety and higher doses prompting anxiety.
If you’re interested in using medical cannabis as an anxiety treatment, connect with Leafwell’s virtual clinic and sign up for your medical marijuana card today.
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