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Natural Awakenings Boston

Start Low and Go Slow: Treating Anxiety with Cannabis

Sep 30, 2020 10:00AM ● By Matthew Herrold
Cannabis medicine shows promise to help individuals with one of society’s most common health challenges today: anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country. At 19 percent of the population, over 40 million Americans a year suffer from the debilitating disease. This can lead to complications at work, school and in relationships. At work and school, it can mean a loss of productivity and performance level, a health-related cost called presenteeism. Relationships can suffer for a variety of reasons including conflict and aversion.

Cannabis used correctly can offer a safe solution without the side effects observed in traditional psychiatric drug therapies. Notably, there is a paradoxical relationship with cannabis and anxiety. One commonly reported side effect of cannabis use is anxiety while anxiety is also one of the most common reasons that people say they consume cannabis.

A closer look by experts does suggest the alarm is likely unwarranted. Researchers concluded that anxiety caused by cannabis is dose related. That is to say that too much consumed triggers anxiety while smaller amounts relieve anxiety. Patients and recreational consumers fall into a trap where the assumption is that more is better. When a person experiences some relief, they think that more cannabis will provide more relief. They consume more which can cause a panic attack. The key to consuming cannabis to help control anxiety is in proper serving sizes and also product choice.

Cannabis is recognized as a biphasic medicine. That means there are two phases of therapeutic benefits and potential side effects. Lower serving sizes can provide benefits and pleasant experiences. Higher doses can trigger the second phase where unwanted side effects start to appear.  A simple rule is employed across the spectrum of products: start low and go slow. When trying to mitigate anxiety symptoms it is much better to feel no effect than to trigger even more intense symptoms.

Among patients and recreational consumers, an evening filled with panic after eating an edible or inhaling a concentrate is a common story. Edibles can take up to two and a half hours for peak effects to set in. Often unpleasant episodes occur when a person thinks their first serving size is too small after an hour and decides to consume more. Two hours later, they begin a very anxious episode that can last for hours.

With concentrates, a seemingly small amount can provide a large dose of THC that peaks within 15 minutes. It is a fast ride, and it can cause a person to avoid similar products in the future.

Instead, practice discipline. Starting with a very conservative microdose will prevent unpleasant episodes like these. That way, people can take their time, refine the serving size and try new products in search of a best solution.

Even with a proven strategy like “start low and go slow”, the refinement of cannabis consumption may seem rather hard when a person first looks at the countless options available to them. There are few more tricks to help make this easier.

Talk to dispensary agents about anxiety goals. They typically use the products themselves and are listening to feedback on other people’s experiences all day long. Take a moment to research dispensary reviews online and choose a dispensary that has reviews that boast knowledgeable and helpful agents.

Keep a simple journal. This will improve and speed up the process to perfect cannabis consumption for anxiety. It allows a person to record basic product information, serving size and timing and the experience. A journal takes away the need to think hard and remember the details of medicine. Notes are always a good thing when it comes to health practices.

Talk to a medical professional that holds a certificate in endocannabinoid medicine. There are now accredited programs for endocannabinoid medicine, like the courses offered to medical professionals through AJEM University. This will guarantee that a person receives advice based on clinical science from a person that has had the commitment to take coursework on cannabis medicine.

Cannabis medicine brings a powerful promise to improve the most common mental ailment in the U.S. Anxiety disorders can greatly reduce quality of life for its victims and extend to the friends, family and colleagues around them. Cannabis can greatly improve symptoms when it is used appropriately with discipline. Talk to a doctor. Talk to dispensary agents. Do some research. Start low and go slow. Keep a journal. Be patient. And always work towards a healthy lifestyle that includes good sleep, hygiene, nutrition, relationships and exercise while using cannabis for managing anxiety.

Matthew Herrold is a certified wellness program coordinator and currently helps to develop the Massachusetts marijuana industry through branding and education. Connect at [email protected]