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Medical Marijuana and Anxiety: Does it Help?

Anxiety is one of the most common qualifying medical conditions for Pennsylvania participants in the medical marijuana program. After Pennsylvania added Anxiety Disorders to its list of qualifying medical conditions in 2019, tens of thousands of patients have sought their medical card for legal, medically-approved treatment of their anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are a broad category and include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias (such as agoraphobia). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also an anxiety disorder, and so prevalent among MMJ patients that it is listed by the Department of Health as a qualifying condition in its own right.

But just how effective is MMJ at treating anxiety?

Marijuana users tend to report mixed experiences around whether their anxiety levels are decreased, increased, or not affected by the substance. Some users report increased anxiety as an adverse effect, while others use marijuana to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. This likely boils down to a diversity of brain chemistry and experiences, and is difficult to quantify. In short, it seems to help some people, and not others.

Medical cannabis may help patients with anxiety because of the consistency of dosage and strain—it is easier to keep track of how much cannabis, and of what type, you are using as treatment. There is no guessing around whether you have taken too much or too little, an experience that can induce anxiety in its own right. Transparency with a medical provider about your cannabis use is also important, particularly if you are taking any other medications that have potential interactions.

The chemical content of your product also matters. A 2019 study reported that a strong majority of participants saw improved levels of anxiety after taking a three month course of cannabidiol, or CBD, a naturally occurring cannabis derivative. Anecdotally, CBD is said to improve anxiety, induce relaxation, and assist in sleep. Our providers typically suggest that patients who are seeking MMJ as treatment for anxiety begin their treatment with high CBD-to-THC ratio products, and encourage patients to talk to their dispensary pharmacist about what specific products might be beneficial to their needs.

The Bottom Line

Patients who have had previous experiences with cannabis should certainly use those experiences to guide their decisions of whether or not, and how, to treat their anxiety with medical marijuana. As a patient seeking medicine, you should be empowered to trust yourself and your experiences first and foremost. If you know that cannabis is effective treatment for your anxiety, a patient-driven healthcare paradigm suggests that your medical provider should rely on your experiences and wisdom in the matter.

If you are less sure about how your anxiety will respond to medical marijuana but still want to attempt treatment, it’s strongly recommended that you keep a detailed log of your product, dosage, and physical and emotional sensations. You may find that, like with any other medication, it may take some time before you find a product, dosage, and routine that works for you.

If you are seeking an MMJ doctor in Pennsylvania to certify you so that you can obtain your medical card, check out our guide to booking an appointment with one of our licensed medical practitioners.


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