It has been nearly one year since I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. At first, I only noticed it occasionally — a chest-tightening, heart-dropping, ear-ringing moment when the world seemed to speed up faster than I could keep up with. But then panic attacks began to hit.
I would be sitting at my desk at work and suddenly have a need to be anywhere but where I was — I would run to the hall, shaking uncontrollably, hyperventilating, and usually holding back a tidal wave of tears. There was even a full week in January where I could hardly leave my house because of my anxiety. I knew something needed to change.
After consulting with my doctor, we decided prescription medicine, specifically Xanax and SSRIs, would be the most effective way for me to soothe my nervous system and manage my symptoms. Always a fan of seeking out natural remedies as well, we discussed the use of essential oils, breathing exercises, and CBD to balance out my treatment plan.
Out of curiosity, I shifted our conversation toward medical marijuana. I'd heard mixed reviews before when it came to weed and anxiety — while some may find relief, others find it can aggravate anxiety further and even cause panic attacks. After thorough discussion, I decided I wouldn't knock it until I tried it, so after receiving my medical card in California, where I reside, I began my trial (and error). Here's what I learned.
Everybody Is Different
"Marijuana can heighten anxiety as a side effect for many people — but for others, it can also help with relaxation and sleep, both of which improve anxiety," my healthcare provider said. "Each person reacts differently to medication, so it is about balancing the side effects and maximizing the benefit."
One of the first times I ever smoked weed, I became super paranoid and anxious instantly — not the effect I was going for at all. I was coached to try a different strain and a smaller dose and to not be scared away from all types of marijuana because of one negative experience. Thankfully, I didn't take anybody else's personal experiences as fact, and my trials paid off. I was able to hone in on the dose and strain that was right for me.
There Are Many Different Strains to Experiment With
Marijuana contains over 60 different cannabinoids, a few of which are psychoactive (aka they make you feel high). A study published in American Family Physician states, "The clinical effectiveness and cannabinoids and adverse effects depend on the ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to nonpsychoactive cannabinol components."
The other primary cannabinoid is cannabidiol, or CBD. "CBD is considered to have a wide scope of potential medical applications despite its reputed lack of psychoactive properties," the study claimed. My healthcare provider said, "There is, in particular, good evidence for pain management — and marijuana is, arguably, to our knowledge, safer by far than regular opioid use. Also, marijuana can be very helpful for sleep and insomnia, and to common knowledge, safer than hypnotics or benzodiazepines."
The first step in finding the right strain is discovering your tolerance and sensitivity. Remember this: start low and slow — work your way up to find your ideal dose. During my own use, I have discovered strains with a higher ratio of CBD to THC are the most effective in calming my anxiety rather than provoking it.
Some of my favourites include the Girl Scout Cookies vape pen and the various flavoured pure CBD vape pens from Select CBD (infused with essential oils such as peppermint and lavender). The higher CBD levels in these products appear to dull the edges of my anxiety more without the high (or risk of more panic and paranoia) from too much THC.
It's Good to Sample Different Methods
Marijuana can be ingested, smoked or vaped, and taken sublingually with a tincture. You may find you prefer one way over another. My personal preference is to vape, as I find it much easier on my lungs than smoking and portable without the telltale smell. If I am at work and need a quick pick-me-up, tinctures are the way to go — they are discreet and fast-acting. For a focussed and productive calm, I prefer my high-CBD Ritual 20:1 Daytime Oil.
Keep in mind that different methods take longer to experience than others — for example, cannabis edibles may take one to two hours to hit, while you may feel the effects of tinctures and vaping in mere minutes.
You Should Talk to a Professional First
Remember, always talk with your healthcare professional when experimenting with adding marijuana to your anxiety-busting arsenal. They can offer advice custom-tailored to you, especially if they have previously helped establish a treatment plan for your anxiety. "I recommend that a patient work with a medical marijuana dispensary that is well-versed in recommendation for a good balance of CBD and THC, different strains, and methods for relief of the particular symptoms they are looking to treat," my health provider advised.
When you're ready to go for it, be mindful of your specific state's laws surrounding the use of medical marijuana. Purchase only from a legal, credible source, such as a dispensary or delivery service like Eaze. When at the dispensary, be open and honest with the consultants about what you are looking for. Do you want to feel high or not? Would you rather find an uplifting daytime strain or a calming one for sleep? Let them know how you are currently manageing your symptoms. Don't be shy and ask as many questions as you want — educating you is what the consultants are there for! Remember, there really is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when it pertains to your well-being.
Take charge of your health and your anxiety by beginning your own research and calling on a trusted professional — you're worth it!