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Using Marijuana to Ease Stress? Focus on CBD, not THC
  • Posted February 29, 2024

Using Marijuana to Ease Stress? Focus on CBD, not THC

Folks hoping to quell their anxiety would do best to use cannabis products that don't get them high, a new clinical trial has found.

The non-intoxicating marijuana compound CBD appears to help manage anxiety better than THC, the chemical in weed that gets people high, researchers say.

Patients with anxiety randomly assigned to smoke CBD-dominant products experienced greater improvements in mood than people smoking THC-heavy products or products with an even split between CBD and THC.

“Our study suggests that CBD products may be able to relieve anxiety in the moment for adults who use them, and possibly longer-term, in a way that is meaningful and doesn't necessarily produce the same risks or harms of THC or prescription medications,” said senior researcher Cinnamon Bidwell, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience with the University of Colorado Boulder.

About one in five U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, making it the most common mental illness in the country, researchers said in background notes.

Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications are on the rise, and the drive to legalize marijuana has made cannabis products an attractive treatment option for people with anxiety.

Adults rank anxiety among the top three medical reasons for turning to cannabis, alongside sleep and pain, researchers said.

However, some studies have suggested that using cannabis too frequently or leaning on potent products high in THC can actually worsen anxiety.

To test this out, researchers recruited 300 people with anxiety, including 258 who were cannabis users.

The cannabis users were randomly assigned to smoke either a THC-dominant product, a CBD-dominant product, or a product containing equal parts THC and CBD. All the products were flower marijuana.

Those who didn't use cannabis formed a control group.

For four weeks, participants could use their assigned product as often as they liked. On average, they used the products three times a week.

By the end of the study period, all four groups reported decreased anxiety, but the cannabis groups saw greater reductions in perceived anxiety. And the CBD-dominant weed users had the best improvement.

While those in the CBD-dominant group didn't feel impaired, they did feel less tense immediately after smoking, researchers found. They also were less likely to experience paranoia immediately after use.

The new study was published recently in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

“CBD-dominant forms of cannabis were associated with acute tension reduction that may translate to longer-term reductions in anxiety symptoms," said researcher Gregory Giordano, a professional research assistant at the CU Center for Health and Neuroscience, Genes and Environment.

CBD is better than THC at reducing inflammation, so it's possible that the compound could be reducing anxiety by lowering inflammation of the brain and nerves, Bidwell said.

“We need more data before we can make conclusive recommendations, but this is promising news,” Bidwell said.

More information

Drexel University has more on anxiety and cannabis.

SOURCE: University of Colorado Boulder, news release, Jan 22, 2024

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