Saturday October 13, 2018

By Erin Hiatt

Does Cannabis Help With Social Anxiety? Health/Science

If you’ve ever been nervous to talk to a large group of people, you’ve likely experienced the clammy and shaking hands, the tongue tripping over itself, the kaleidoscope of butterflies sending waves of nausea through your stomach. Luckily, public speaking is generally something that happens every now and then. But if you are someone with social anxiety disorder (SAD), welcome to your everyday life.

SAD is a kind of anxiety disorder that elicits deep fear in social settings and causes anxiety and panic before social interactions, an irrational fear of humiliation or embarrassment, a disruption of daily activities, and knowing that the fears are unreasonable.

SAD may also affect even the most quotidian tasks like shopping, asking questions, using public restrooms, eating in public, attending job interviews, and dating. While the symptoms of SAD can be debilitating for some, many people believe cannabis to be an effective treatment that quells social anxiety. More and more people suffering from SAD are experimenting with cannabis to ease their symptoms and improve their daily lives. To give you a better idea of how cannabis affects social anxiety, let’s examine some of the science between the two as well as explore which strains might work best.

Cannabis and Social Anxiety

Severe social anxiety can affect every aspect of an individual’s life because SAD is not just about being afraid of social interactions. Anxiety disorders can induce strong physiological effects like dizziness, stomach trouble and diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, a feeling of breathlessness, and an “out of body” sensation – making them incredibly disruptive and destabilizing. Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are very common, affecting about one-third of adults at one point or another. Luckily, cannabis can help!

Many people who have long-known about marijuana’s natural anti-anxiety effects are also deploying it as a tool to help them ease the symptoms of SAD. And as legalization spreads across the globe providing increased access to cannabis, more and more people are beginning to trade in their pharmaceuticals in favor of cannabis. Though research on how cannabis can help SAD is in the beginning stages, there is growing evidence showing marijuana can help with anxiety, and it looks like CBD is the key.

CBD
CBD has shown to be one of the most effective cannabinoids for reducing anxiety. photo credit

In the study, “Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent, as an anxiolytic drug,” researchers found that in animals and healthy volunteers, CBD had an anxiolytic-like, or anxiety calming effect, for those with SAD. It is believed that the CBD molecule attaches to the CB1 brain receptor, where it interacts with another molecule in the brain, serotonin. Sometimes called the “happy chemical” because of its role in feelings of wellbeing, serotonin helps regulate mental health. Low serotonin levels are often correlated with depression and oftentimes, anxiety.

The Science Behind Social Anxiety

No one is exactly sure what causes SAD, but it is believed to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors, plus negative experiences that may include bullying, family conflict and sexual abuse. And though there is no formal diagnostic procedure for SAD, an honest conversation with your doctor will help them to diagnose the condition.

Most often, doctors will prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), like Zoloft or Prozac. But SSRIs, unlike CBD and cannabis, have a lot of unpleasant side effects, including insomnia, rash, dry mouth, drowsiness, joint pain, agitation, upset stomach, and reduced sexual desire. Other regularly prescribed anti-anxiety medications are benzodiazepines (benzos) because of their ability to quickly calm the mind. Benzodiazepines interact with a central nervous system neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which controls body functions, anxiety among them. But, they are easily and chronically abused.

Best Cannabis Strains for Social Anxiety

If you’re thinking you would rather avoid the side-effects of pharmaceuticals and use cannabis to combat symptoms of social anxiety, there are several strains that could help. Remember, cannabis affects everyone differently so do your best to conduct some trial and error to find out which strain(s) work best for your own specific needs.

Chocolate Chunk

Chocolate Chunk

Chocolate Chunk is a 100 percent indica strain that gives a strong body high, meaning that it promotes feelings of relaxation and calmness. Chocolate Chunk is known for its potent properties, so a little will go a long way to help you feel relaxed and calm. Because this strain is such a heavy indica, some people may find it best used during the evening hours.

Good Medicine

Good Medicine

Good Medicine is a popular CBD hybrid strain that has a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio. It’s a great strain to stay calm throughout the day and, since it has relatively low THC, will keep you alert and attentive. It has also shown to be very relaxing and a helpful sleep aid, making it beneficial for those whose anxiety keeps them up at night.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights

Northern Lights has excellent stress and pain relieving effects. This indica dominant hybrid may cause a heavy head and eyes, but is very relaxing, making it perfect for reducing anxious thoughts and quieting the mind.

Hell’s OG

Hell's OG

Hell’s OG, another indica dominant hybrid, produces a well-rounded body high combined with an energetic effect. Hell’s OG has shown to create a sense of calm while still feeling lively enough to accomplish everyday activities. This strain may work well for anyone looking to combat anxiety while still maintaining productivity throughout the day.

THC and Anxiety

There is a lot of discussion about THC and whether it increases anxiety. Sometimes, THC can produce a sense of dissociation and could leave you feeling very disoriented, compounding the anxious feelings – this is especially true if you’re new to cannabis. Figuring out the right consumption method depends on your symptoms and how you plan to manage your anxiety. Smoking or vaping marijuana will bring the medicinal effects quicker than any other method, but it’s difficult to know your dose and replicate it with this method.

Edibles may be a more quantitative approach to smoking if you are really careful about how much you’re consuming. Since their effects kick in around 30 minutes or later after ingesting, patience is important. Start low and go slow. A transdermal patch, which sends cannabis through your bloodstream may also be an option, as could CBD oil or cannabis capsules. No matter which method you’re interested in, if you have questions you should always consult with your doctor or a knowledgeable budtender to help you find the strain and consumption method that works best for you.

Because an anxiety attack can happen any time of any day, finding a strain that can induce feelings of calm while still allowing you to enjoy and go about your life is important. Dosing cannabis for any condition is always a matter of trial and error, but with anxiety, finding a strain with a balanced CBD to THC ratio is a good place to start.


Do you have any tips for using cannabis to combat social anxiety? Share them in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Max Pixel (license)


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt writes about cannabis, psychedelics, hemp, politics, and drug policy reform for THC Mag and Freedom Leaf. She has also written for AlterNet and Vice. Erin's work and industry insights have been featured as the hemp and media specialist for the Cannabis and Hemp Association and as a guest on "In The Know 420," speaking on federal and international drug policy. Erin's background is in the entertainment industry, where she worked as a print model and actress on stage, film, television, and commercials. Erin is an avid hiker, trekking much of the southwest, and is a proud member of Actors Equity. You can follow her work on Wordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.


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