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Anxiety Conditions Rarely Covered Under Medical Marijuana Laws

A silhouette of a woman holding her hand to her forehead to represent her anxiety, which can be treated with cannabis.

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Anxiety Conditions Rarely Covered Under Medical Marijuana Laws

Anxiety disorders affect over 40 million adults in the United States, nearly 20 percent of the entire population. About half of those with the diagnosis are taking one or more physician-prescribed pharmaceutical medications to cope. Americans spend over $2 billion every year on anti-anxiety medications and rack up over $40 billion in anxiety-related medical bills.

Many medical marijuana laws only recognize physical ailments and tend to overlook the multitude of mental disorders cannabis can help regulate. Not only can medical cannabis help people with their anxiety, it can also alleviate the root conditions causing or caused by anxiety.

Many anxiety medications have dramatic lists of side effects, including feelings of inebriation, drowsiness, clumsiness, impaired judgment, memory loss, nausea and slurred speech. More severe side effects include damage to fetuses, infertility, problems breast-feeding, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, seizures and tumors.

“It had gotten to the point where I was lying to my doctor about taking my medication. I was supposed to be taking Klonopin, but I hated it. I was doing poorly at my job, oversleeping, always confused. Often times, it made me vomit. Eventually, I decided it would be better to feel overly-anxious than to be a non-functional zombie,” says Breanne*, a college student diagnosed with anxiety.

“I can’t give you absolute numbers, but the percentage is close to 50 percent who complain of symptoms of anxiety or panic [as a result of pharmaceutical medications], “ says Steven Watson, a licensed clinical social worked (LCSW) specializing in anxiety and post traumatic stress (PTSD) disorders, “I would suggest exploring medications to 20 percent of the clients with primary anxiety issues. I also strongly suggest they continue with therapy and have a long term goal of going off medications.”

When asked about medical marijuana as a treatment for anxiety, Watson says if individuals were already familiar with the plant’s effects, he would support its use for anxiety.

“I am in favor of what works,” he says.

Raymond* says “I feel like if I was to go to a doctor, I could get a prescription for some sort of drug to alleviate my social anxiety. I don’t trust synthetic drugs, because they dramatically affect a brain’s chemistry.”

In fact, after long-term usage of anxiety medication, patients are recommended to taper off the medications because abrupt discontinuation is known to cause even more health problems.

Although 22 states have legalized cannabis for medical use, a diagnosis of anxiety, although considered chronic, is rarely qualifying under most state laws.

PTSD, the most common form of anxiety in the U.S., is the only anxiety disorder explicitly qualifying in any state’s legislation. Currently only Maine, Oregon, and New Mexico have made that inclusion. Research has shown that marijuana helps with, “extinction of bad memories and growth of new brain cells (neuro-genesis),” which proves effective for patients suffering from PTSD.

Lack of medical marijuana coverage doesn’t decrease the prevalence of anxious Americans seeking treatment. Programs are set up to help patients move—fully uproot their lives—to receive medical marijuana in states that cover their condition.

When asked why she chooses to use marijuana as an aid against anxiety, Breanne said, “If I take one to two hits in the morning, I feel like I’m waking up on the right side of the bed. I take another one before bed, combined with some meditation. I am never, by any means, stoned—always just relaxed. Over all, I’d say I’m a completely different person because I stopped taking prescriptions.”

Conventional medications change brain chemistry; marijuana opens the mind to new thoughts. Over time, one can learn to deal with anxiety, rather than chemically mask it.

*Indicates names have been changed to protect anonymity.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Christina

    January 22, 2016 at 2:14 am

    I agree medical marijuana does take the edge off of anxiety systoms n depression etc.Please help me get a red card for anxiety use…

  2. futurephytopharmacist58

    February 23, 2014 at 7:37 am

    the issue with the psychokinetic features of anxiety, is that breeders of cannabis have breed for THC-Delta9, a compound which for anxiety patients can only increase symptoms of anxiety.

    While there is a growing movement in the MMJ community to look at other compounds in cannabis, the prevailing school of thought is it contains THC.
    As one who trained in psycho-pharmacology, I do think Israel is on track with treating symptoms. Low THC/High CBD strains show promise for many psychiatrist symptoms.
    I would hope that move away from the single chemical notion of treating the brain.
    When I was in grad school, understanding of the neurotransmitter systems were just starting to be studied. Drug companies jumped on the idea that SSRI/NARI were isolated to treat depression and anxiety, when Mecholam and others found the notion of endogenous cannabis as modulating compounds this changed my understanding of human physiology.. Psychiatry/Pharmacology needs to adjust it’s study and move away from single compounds to treat illness.

    I would caution those with psychiatric illness, to “know your medicine” if it is your intent to treat yourself. Find strains that have been show to help alleviate your symptoms. Avoid strains that produce anxiety, paranoia, and couch lock.

  3. Timothy Massey

    February 20, 2014 at 5:15 am

    This is so true for me and my wife

  4. debra hovey

    February 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I have anxiety and bi polar disorder I take 10 pills daily none of which ever make me feel better fact is they slow me down they turn me into a zombie really even my kids say I am different when I take the pills forget everything all the time like where I am going and appointments simply because I forgot but now I smoke weed only I have not had an attack in over two years and I manage my bipolar disorder a lot better I smoke and eat it an I am here to say it works 100 percent

    • Christina

      January 22, 2016 at 2:15 am

      I agree

    • Kay

      February 1, 2016 at 9:58 am

      which strain do you partake in? Is there one that helps more than the other? Do you have mania in connection with your bipolar or are you more on the depressive side? There are many strains of MJ with high THC that can actually cause mania.

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