Few people are aware they suffer from anxiety until they have a full-on breakdown. They feel their chest constrict, their vision narrows, thoughts race through their head and suddenly, it feels as if the weight of the world sitting on their shoulders, pressing them into the ground.
When one of these panic attacks occurs, life stands still. And after recovering, all an individual can think about is preventing one from ever. happing. again. In the modern age, most adults will set up an appointment with their doctors and receive a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, which may or may not work. The side effects are worth it, they think, as long as relief is provided.
While this route works for some, it is failing the population at large. Rates of depression and anxiety are skyrocketing, and few solutions are being presented to combat this reality. Except for one, and that is marijuana.
The herb is being legalized at a rapid pace because it has a bounty of medicinal compounds, specifically cannabidiol (CBD), which have been proven to benefit a range of afflictions — including seizures, cancer, Parkinson’s and Dementia. New research also suggests it aids anxiety better than medication, which is why there is a very real change cannabis could replace anti-anxiety medications in the future.
The results of the most recent study on this topic weren’t entirely conclusive, but they do contribute to the longer-term possibility that marijuana compounds may be more effective — and safer — than prescription anxiety meds. Forbes reports, “The recent study focused on marijuana’s potency in reducing the stress response in regular users. Stress was measured by tracking cortisol amounts in study participants’ saliva. Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone,’ is a reliable indicator of stress; higher or lower amounts correlate closely with a person’s response to stressful situations.”
The study followed a group of daily marijuana users and recorded their stress responses, then compared them to a group of non-marijuana users. The results were clear: regular users had a “blunted” response to small stressors. As a result, their internal stress engines “had been tuned down” due to the regular exposure to cannabis.
Said Carrie Cuttler, study co-author and clinical assistant professor of psychology,
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effects of acute stress on salivary cortisol levels in chronic cannabis users compared to non-users. While we are not at a point where we are comfortable saying whether this muted stress response is a good thing or a bad thing, our work is an important first step in investigating potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis at a time when its use is spreading faster than ever before.”
The data from this study pairs well with findings from other research that shows marijuana compounds have a distinct effect on levels of the neurotransmitter GABA. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in the anxiety response by acting like the “brake” on anxiety. It counterbalances the effects of excitatory brain chemicals, such as glutamate. Research in its early states suggests that marijuana — primarily CBD — enhances GABA’s effects with few downsides. CBD is the same compound proven to cure various types of cancer.
While drugs such as Benzodiazepines are effective at rapidly delivering calmness, their use comes at a cost. Tolerance to anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds, such as Xanax and Klonopin, builds incredibly fast. This means a patient needs to take more and more of the medication to get the same effect. Frequently, a dependency also develops. Many users choose to stay on the drugs indefinitely and deal with the side effects, which include fatigue, disorientation, and mental fogginess. It’s also worth noting that every year, thousands of deaths occur from an overdose on benzos medication.
This latest study, published in journal Psychopharmacology, suggests that the compounds in marijuana might eventually be harnessed to deliver anti-anxiety relief with reduced dependency, fewer side effects, and less overdose potential. Though more research needs to be conducted, this finding is promising.
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