The Woodstock crowd smoked pot in bell bottoms; Peter, Paul, and Mary puffed the magic dragon. Whether its alias is Mary Jane, weed, or chronic, marijuana comes from a plant scientifically known as cannibas sativa. Its main active ingredient is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short. In many people, the drug produces a relaxing effect, but it’s still unclear whether weed can actually reduce anxiety.
Light It Up and Take a Puff — Why It Matters
Unfortunately, trying to understand the science of marijuana is not as calming as smoking it. Marijuana reduces stress by acting on the endocannabinoid system, the part of the brain that regulates pain, memory, and appetite. The brain busts out the Bob Marley when the THC interacts with a neurotransmitter called anandamide, producing a relaxed feeling. Small amounts of marijuana can also beat stress by lowering blood pressure and causing sleepiness.
Besides stress relief, other effects of marijuana use include distorted perception (seriously dude, where ismy car?) and impaired coordination. Research on the effects of consistent marijuana use isn’t conclusive, but long-term risks may include cognitive problems and even addiction.
And while Jay and Silent Bob are pretty upstanding characters, it’s illegal to use marijuana recreationally in the USA. Medical marijuana’s another story: In sixteen states and Washington, D.C., doctors can prescribe marijuana for pain relief, insomnia, and other treatments. (Satisfying the need to eat an entire pie is not among them— yet.) But when it comes to using marijuana to reduce anxiety, the issue gets complicated.
A Dime For Your Thoughts — The Answer/Debate
Anxiety is one of the most common conditions among medical marijuana patients
But it’s hard to say for sure that marijuana’s a certifiable chill pill
In the future, people who suffer from depression and anxiety may be able to avoid run-ins with the po-po. Studies suggest the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in anxiety and mood disorders, and researchers may develop therapeutic drugs similar to THC without the same negative side effects
The relationship between weed and anxiety may be more complicated than it appears— don’t assume lighting up a joint will solve any problem!
Do you think doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana for anxiety relief? Tell us in the comments below!