The legalization of cannabis has led to an open floodgate of research.
One study was looking at the compounds inside of cannabis and how it is effective for stress. It is now leading efforts in discovering compounds in cannabis that could be an effective replacement for anti-anxiety medications like Benzodiazepines.
This study was looking at how reliable marijuana is when dealing with stress.
Participants were tasked to complete the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST). Then, researchers tested the saliva of the participants to measure their cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
Researchers then tested cannabis users and non-users for their cortisol levels and compared the two. The results showed that non-users had significantly higher stress levels than those who smoked cannabis regularly.
Data showed that cannabis user’s reactivity to stress was “blunted”; they showed no increase in cortisol levels. This coincides with many anecdotal experiences – that cannabis is a solid stress reliever.
Researches say that this is just the beginning of their studies. They want to understand if cannabis users have a better time recovering from stressful situations or if they are more vulnerable in certain scenarios.
Carlie Cuttler, study co-author and clinical assistant professor of psychology states:
“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.”
On the surface, this seems like a very positive study. Using cannabis equals less stress, but the research is saying that heavy users are actually “numb” to the stress. It is hard to tell if having a dulled response to stressful situations is positive or negative, but this leads researchers into being interested in understanding the mechanisms behind the cannabis users’ response.
Either way, the results from this study pair extremely well with research from earlier this year that showed cannabis compounds’ effects on levels of neurotransmitter GABA. This neurotransmitter acts as an anxiety “off switch”.
This study showed that the cannabinoid CBD enhances GABA’s effects. Anti-anxiety is just one of the many health benefits that CBD can provide. Here is the highly impressive research profile. Here’s the story about how one man manages his PTSD using CBD.
The current mainstream medication for anxiety is Benzodiazepine. “Benzos” acts as a minor tranquilizer by enhancing the effect of GABA – resulting in sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant properties.
The problem with using these types of medications?
Well, your tolerance rapidly increases and your doctor will continue to give you a higher dosage to keep giving you the same effect. Any long-term use (beyond 4 weeks) will cause a high risk of addiction. Also, thousands of people die every year due to overdosing on Benzodiazepine.
Getting off of your medication? Near impossible. Many anecdotal reports say it is the equivalent of going through hell and back, just to get off your medications. Fatigue, brain fogginess, anxiety, disorientation, and weight loss are all just the beginning of the excruciating withdrawal effects you face.
If you’re curious, here is Barry Haslam’s experience with using Benzodiazepines and his journey of suffering from withdrawals and recovery.
This is all a lot of early research, but it opens the door to the future of anti-anxiety medications. Maybe we will one day be able to pinpoint the perfect combinations of cannabinoids and use that as an anti-anxiety alternative.