Is Medical Cannabis a Reliable Treatment for Anxiety Disorders?


Anxiety disorders have emerged as one of the primary conditions for which medical cannabis is prescribed since being approved for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana (PAMMJ) Program in 2019. However, the use of cannabis to treat anxiety remains a contentious topic in Pennsylvania. Reports suggest that it may offer relief, but skepticism persists.

In medical marijuana evaluation clinics across California, 37.8% of patients reported using marijuana to alleviate anxiety, with 16.9% using it for panic attacks, and 55.1% for enhancing relaxation. Anxiety and depression were frequently noted as concerns by patients. However, the benefits of CBD, a component of cannabis, have been reported in the relief of various conditions, from insomnia and spasticity to life-threatening conditions such as epilepsy. Patients have also reported benefits in managing pain and wasting syndrome related to HIV, along with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

Yet, the potential adverse effects of cannabis cannot be overlooked. It can lead to increased heart rate, bronchitis, addiction, and drug interactions, especially with CBD. High dosages have been linked to heightened anxiety and even panic attacks. The impairment of driving skills and the operation of heavy machinery are significant concerns, along with the heightened risks associated with teenage use.

Despite its widespread use for relaxation and treatment of pain, anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions, more comprehensive data on cannabis’s long-term impact is necessary. As of mid-2022, 37 U.S. states have approved medical cannabis laws, with 19 states legalizing its recreational use. While cannabis has demonstrated efficacy for various conditions such as childhood seizure disorders, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite in individuals with HIV/AIDS, the explosion of new cannabis products on the market, driven by robust marketing campaigns, calls for a more cautious approach.

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Research from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago indicates that low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can reduce stress, with the effects being highly dose-dependent. Minimal doses mitigated the stress of public speaking, whereas slightly higher doses, enough to produce a mild high, had the opposite effect, exacerbating anxiety.

Is Medical Cannabis a Reliable Treatment for Anxiety Disorders?

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