For the modern American, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness, affecting over 40 million adults — 18 percent of the national population.
Characterized by feelings of panic, fear and uneasiness, anxiety can greatly impact quality of life and can even cause physical symptoms like heart palpitations, dizziness, tingling in hands and feet, shortness of breath, nausea, tense muscles and insomnia. These symptoms can be extremely debilitating, painful and frightening.
But some patients report that using cannabis has helped them ease symptoms and reclaim their life.
Just ask Joely Balazs, a residential property assessor from New Brunswick, Canada, who thought her first panic attack was a heart attack. Now 47, Balazs has been suffering from anxiety for the last 23 years; at times it was so bad she had thoughts of ending her life.
When Balazs had a breakdown in her doctor’s office, her doctor suggested she try medical marijuana.
“The lowest it got, I just felt nothing — at least that was what I felt like most of the time,” Balazs says. “I thought… ‘I might as well start thinking of things completely differently — like I’m starting all over.’”
Balazs says she was healed over the last three years by using cannabis edibles: With a spoonful of cannabis-infused coconut oil in her coffee, Balazs began to feel like it was easier to handle her anxiety and deal with underlying issues.
“Now I was living and I didn’t want to pull out in front of a Mack truck anymore,” she says. “And I was genuinely healed; I didn’t kill the pain, I embraced it and pulled the hood off and saw myself. I really credit the uplifting source of pot for helping me do that.”
Balazs isn’t the only one to find cannabis helpful for anxiety.
Dr. Perry Solomon, chief medical officer at HelloMD — an online portal connecting medical cannabis patients to doctors — says that anxiety is one of the top three conditions patients report treating with cannabis.
And research published in the August 2017 issue of the scientific journal Psychopharmacology shows that using cannabis can actually blunt stress reactions, reducing the release of cortisol (a stress hormone) and lowering subjective stress ratings from patients.
Still, Dr. Solomon has words of caution for patients considering edible cannabis treatments for their anxiety.
“Edibles, in general, are a little bit less predictable than any other way of using cannabis, be it smoking, vaping or tinctures,” he says.
With edibles, it takes longer for the effects to begin, and they last for a lot longer, so edibles are less helpful for treating acute anxiety when it hits. Edible absorption can also vary based on what else you’ve eaten and the time of day, so there are more variables to keep in mind than with other methods.
Still some chronic anxiety patients — like Kathryn Grant, one of the founders of tinctures and topicals company Forest Nymph Botanicals — report the long-lasting effects of edibles to help keep anxiety more manageable throughout the day.
Grant uses edibles to treat her chronic anxiety, and if she’s having an acute anxiety attack, she combines a high-CBD sublingual tincture with smoking a joint. She says smoking XJ13 and Dream Queen work best for her.
For individuals considering using edibles for your anxiety, both Dr. Solomon and Grant advise starting with low doses and paying careful attention to what strains work best for you.
“Everyone is different and what works for one person definitely may not work for somebody else,” Dr. Solomon says.
Grant echoed these sentiments, encouraging people to take the time to try different things and “have enough self-awareness to discriminate what’s good for them and what’s not.”
Originally published in Issue 28 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
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