The Opioid Crisis
Over the last 15 to 20 years, anti-anxiety medications have become increasingly commonplace. The now widespread availability of medications to alleviate anxiety or related conditions has resulted in a significant proportion of the population taking these drugs, often over long periods of time.
One factor in this growth appears to be due to the over-subscribing of medications by doctors. This has resulted in some people becoming addicted to prescription drugs, the long-term effects of which are not fully known. Likewise, it is not uncommon for some people to source prescription-strength drugs without a prescription, leading to addiction.
CBD and THC to the Rescue?
This raises the question of whether marijuana is a potential replacement for existing anti-anxiety medications. Before delving into the topic in more detail, it is useful to consider the chemical makeup of the cannabis sativa plant. The two major components of cannabis are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While these chemicals are found in the sativa plant, they produce somewhat different experiences for the user. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is known to produce the “high” associated with marijuana, while Cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychotic. That said, both these substances can offer relief from a host of medical conditions, including combating anxiety.
Marijuana and Anxiety
However, research on the topic of marijuana and whether it is suitable for replacing anti-anxiety meds is somewhat limited. For example, it is unknown which strains of cannabis are best for relieving anxiety, and since everyone reacts differently, it can be challenging to pinpoint clear trends to build research upon.
The age of the user is also a factor, as is lifestyle and the impact of other substances used in parallel. It is also difficult to say how the long-term use of marijuana can affect anxiety. It is actually possible to feel even more anxious when using marijuana. Paranoia is a known side effect of the drug, and this tends to increase as the dose becomes higher.
The condition or level of anxiety is also a factor that comes into play. Some people experience long-term Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) that can be difficult to successfully treat, while others may experience a bout of anxiety after a particular stressful event (e.g. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Medical Marijuana to replace Prescription Pills?
Having said that, many people are turning to marijuana as an alternative for short-term (and in some cases, longer-term) treatment of anxiety. The main reasons for this are the highly addictive nature of many anti-anxiety medications, especially benzodiazepines. Likewise, for anyone who becomes addicted to benzodiazepines, the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely distressing. Therefore, marijuana is sometimes used as a method to ease the effects of a benzo withdrawal.
Further Research Needed, but signs are promising
While scientific research is limited in this area, many people do find marijuana beneficial for relieving anxiety. This is especially true for short-term bouts of anxiety. However, the verdict is still out as to whether marijuana can become a reliable replacement for the most commonplace anti-anxiety medications.
Indeed, it is said that when surveyed, most cannabis users state anxiety as one of the key reasons for taking the drug. As marijuana is gradually legalised in certain areas, the ability of doctors to prescribe, for example, cannabis oil for symptom relief will become ever greater. Therefore, we may see marijuana being increasingly used for the treatment of anxiety and other related conditions, such as depression.
However, more scientific research is still required before the widespread use of cannabis will be available over the counter as a prescription medication.