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Using Cannabis as treatment for anxiety disorders

March 9, 2018

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and individualized specific phobias. They are a collection of mental disorders that create fear and distress so immensely as to interfere with daily life.

 

Panic disorders create terror that strikes without warning. Social anxiety disorder causes feelings of worry and self-consciousness about everyday social interactions. Specific phobias may cause an intense fear of a specific person, place or thing. While generalized anxiety disorder causes excessive and unrealistic worry over minimal generally harmless situations.

 

On top of carrying feelings of panic, uneasiness and fear anxiety disorders can cause many more ancillary problems including sleeplessness, with cold or sweaty hands and feet and shortness of breath, dry mouth, an inability to be still or calm, heart palpitations, numbness in the hands and feet, nausea, muscle tension and dizziness.

 

Treatment efforts for anxiety disorders include working with mental health professionals as well as medications from a licensed psychiatrist to reduce symptoms. Co-existing conditions can compound the issues and may need to be treated and addressed prior to anxiety disorder treatment. The cause of anxiety disorders is unknown but research suggests that they stem from a combination of factors including: environmental stress and changes to the brain. Anxiety disorders commonly arise out of association with other mental or physical illnesses such as alcohol or substance abuse.

 

Early research and evidence supports the idea that cannabinoids can be a beneficial tool for managing anxiety and mood disorders because of their ability to emulate the body's endocannabinoid system.

 

Multiple studies have found that influencing the endocannabanoid system can control the adverse behavioral and psychological consequences of stress by inhibiting fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) an enzyme that degrades and breaks down one of the two major endocannabinoids that are synthesized by the body, anandamides.

 

By inhibiting FAAH, anandamide levels are higher, which have shown to be beneficial for treating stress-related anxiety disorders. Cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system through its cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptor CB1 has shown to be associated with the inhibition of FAAH to reduce the vulnerability to anxiety. Cannabinoid receptor CB has also shown to be related to reduced anxiety levels.

 

Marijuana compounds have a distinct effect on levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which plays a key role in the anxiety response. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts as a brake on anxiety, counterbalancing the effects of excitatory brain chemicals like glutamate. Early research suggests that compounds in marijuana, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), enhance GABA’s effects with moderate downsides. (CBD has an impressive research profile in several areas, anxiety among them.)


Cannabis has also been shown to be an effective tool in battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) an anxiety-related disorder.

 

Recent studies on cannabis' effect on anxiety disorders:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4119220/

 

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