Using CBD to manage anxiety caused by cannabis
While most recreational cannabis users have an awesome time when they smoke, vape or consume THC-rich edibles, sometimes the experience can become overwhelming and cause anxiety and other negative emotions.
There are a few reasons why this could occur. Perhaps the person just doesn’t respond well to THC, or maybe they’ve taken more than they can handle. In recent decades, growers have upped the ante when cultivating recreational strains, and THC levels are reaching unprecedented heights. And as THC levels increased, CBD levels have declined, taking us away from the type of cannabis that has been used for thousands of years around the world, for medicinal, recreational and spiritual purposes.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the well-known mind-altering properties of cannabis. In the right set and setting and with a sensible dose, THC can be very pleasurable – the euphoria makes us laugh and reduces our inhibitions so that we are more sociable with others. But as much as positive feelings can be magnified, so can those that are more negative. For those not used to what’s referred to as a ‘bad trip’, the paranoia and anxiety can get a little scary.
But does the risk of having an unpleasant cannabis journey mean you should stay away from the herb altogether? Not at all. And, amusingly, the best remedy for anxiety caused by THC may just come from cannabidiol (CBD), another cannabinoid found in weed.
Reduce THC-induced anxiety with CBD
CBD is a very important cannabis compound from a medical perspective, and also from a general wellbeing point of view. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid helps to keep the endocannabinoid system in balance, meaning that it has a wide-range of therapeutic effects that can be harnessed to treat a huge variety of conditions.
Many mental health patients are finding CBD more effective than their existing treatments, which are notorious for having side effects and addictive properties. More studies are necessary, but 2011 research found CBD to be a useful treatment for anxiety, and the compound also helps promote anandamide, a powerful antidepressant.
CBD is also beneficial for those suffering from physical pain – the cannabinoid helps reduce inflammation and pain perception. The jury is still out on whether CBD is more effective than opioid painkillers, but it’s certainly nowhere near as addictive.
To understand how CBD can help to ease anxiety induced by THC, it’s important to get a gist of different types of anxiety, and the symptoms they bring.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
Social anxiety typically makes a person much more self-conscious, affecting their ability to function in social situations. People with this condition tend to be worried about embarrassing themselves or being judged, which prevents them from displaying their true personality when interacting with others. Social anxiety is often worse in new and unusual situations, where more potential threats are perceived.
Cannabis can be a useful weapon against social anxiety, provided it’s used sensibly. THC can alter a person’s perception of reality, which may make them less fearful and caught up in their own concerns – this can be very liberating for someone who spends much of their time in a mental prison. However, in larger doses THC can have the opposite effect, especially if negative thoughts are already brewing prior to taking it. A cannabis trip can be influenced by preconceived notions, and if the user is doubtful that it will help with their anxiety, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is somewhat difference to social anxiety, in that it permeates all aspects of life – many patients with SAD also suffer from GAD.
Generalized anxiety causes a person to become irrationally worried and concerned about matters. This can strike in any area, from health to self-fulfilment.
Super-strength strains are not helping with anxiety
Experienced cannabis users may be so used to the high concentrations of THC, and understanding of when to consume them, that they are not affected by the possible anxiety-inducing effects. However, for those less familiar with cannabis, a strain that’s high in THC and very low in CBD may be asking for trouble.
CBD is an anxiolytic compound that also has antipsychotic properties. These effects can work to reduce the psychoactive high from THC. CBD manages this by tweaking the bond that is made between THC and CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. CBD doesn’t connect directly with CB1, but via a “backdoor” – technically, CBD is a negative allosteric modulator to the CB1 receptor.
Which CBD products are best for cannabis-caused anxiety?
It’s possible that a strain with a more balanced THC to CBD ratio would help to ease anxiety, but if THC is the problem, then a CBD-only product is probably more suitable. Vaping CBD e-liquid will help to reduce anxiety quickly, as the CBD can start interacting with the CB1 receptor within minutes.
CBD concentrates are another excellent suggestion. These can also be vaporized but are much more potent in CBD – the highest-strength crystals contain upwards of 95 percent CBD.
It’s common to get the munchies after ingesting a lot of THC, and CBD edibles can help to ease anxiety while satiating appetite. Edibles and other orally-ingested CBD products such as capsules are not as fast-acting as concentrates and vape oil, however. With this method, CBD cannot be absorbed into the bloodstream before travelling through the “first pass metabolism”. This process can take between 30 minutes and two hours and is mostly dependent on the speed of the person’s metabolism.
Keep CBD on hand when smoking
There are always lots of suggestions for how to manage anxiety and paranoia that comes from smoking too much cannabis – such as lying down, taking a shower and watching something funny. But while all these tricks can help, taking action that helps to rebalance the endocannabinoid system is more logical.
CBD is known to reduce anxiety by working with the GABA neurotransmitter to quieten down an overzealous brain, and its inhibition of THC’s psychoactive effects can also be used beneficially.
The recreational industry may have forgotten about CBD with the drive to make more potent cannabis, but the compound’s therapeutic uses should be of significant interest to all. Before you light up next time, it’s worth having CBD at hand – just in case.