August 31, 2018
by Tina Arnoldi
Is cannabis a safer alternative than opiods? Is legalizing it beneficial to the medical community and their patients? Those opposed say it is not backed by science - it is only hype with little evidence, especially in the area of mental health. Those for it insist it does work.
Endocannabinoid deficiency theory says that many mental and physical ailments occur because the body’s innate endocannabinoid system (ECS) is disturbed and that that cannabis does have a beneficial role in managing anxiety. So if this does make a case for cannabis, do patients suffering specifically from anxiety need both CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in their treatment plan?
Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, says the question of whether the THC component is good or bad for anxiety is not an easy one to answer. “THC interacts with every person differently. For some, you may experience a sense of relief and calmness. However, THC can also raise your heart rate and leave you with a dizzy feeling not dissimilar to a panic attack. Some people suffering from anxiety may find that they can navigate these feelings with the relief of the drug, whereas it might aggravate anxiety in others.“
This is why Holly Bennett with Apollo Cannabis Clinics believes legal, regulated cannabis is important. A patient who self medicates and buys from a unregulated source will “have no idea what they are actually using, how much CBD and THC are in that product, and if that strain is going to alleviate their anxiety, or aggravate it.” When used to treat anxiety, Rosemary Mazanet, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientific officer and chair of the scientific advisory board for Columbia Care, said “a predominantly CBD formulation might be the best option for the majority of patients” and they offer three different doses of THC and CBD to patients at Columbia Care.
But all medication, especially that for anxiety, is risky. Cannabis may be a good alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals. “During one terrible period last year I went to the doctor and he prescribed me diazepam,” said Charlotte Caleb, a music artist manager from London. “I was taking a low dosage ...but it would knock me out so hard I would fall asleep at my desk and then it would fade quickly and I would need another." Charlotte’s anxiety is not a constant presence in her life. It comes and goes, often without warning. “Having a little bit of an edible every now and then has no impact on my health, how I am able to function, how I think etc.. but means I can nip anxiety in the bud and carry on with my day.”
Advocates argue that legalization is positive because the regulation of marijuana means patients would receive quality product. Holly orders from approved licensed producers so she knows exactly what she is getting. “I use medical cannabis every day to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression and it absolutely works for me. I had been self-medicating with cannabis for many years, and often it would exacerbate my symptoms if I was using the wrong strain, or incorrect amount. Once it was prescribed by a physician in 2016, I began to personalize a medical cannabis treatment plan based on my needs.” Side effects are a result of overuse more so than the product, which is why Dr Perry Solomon, HelloMD Chief Medical Officer, tells patients to go “low and slow”.
Critics argue that legalizing marijuana, even for medical use only, opens to the door to abuse and other drugs. Patients disagree. Holly does not “want to feel ‘high’ during the day” so her preference is to use low THC strains of cannabis with rich levels of CBD.” Charlotte agrees, “The experience is in no way to get high, it is literally to get through a certain period.” With the right dose and appropriate treatment plan, many patients and medical professionals say that cannabis is beneficial for alleviating symptoms - including anxiety.
Tina Arnoldi is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in Charleston, SC, business consultant, and freelance writer. She is a reviewer for PsychCentral (you can find her work here) and has a public portfolio on Contently. You can learn more about her and connect at TinaArnoldi.com