Medical Marijuana and Anxiety Disorder: Can It Replace Benzodiazepines For Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is an emotional state that takes many different forms. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18 percent of Americans suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, yet only 36.9 percent of those suffering receive treatment. Why is this? Perhaps patients worry about the side-effects of pharmaceuticals or don’t like taking pills. Cost is also a major concern with the price of a 5mg dosage of Valium for only 20 days running about $75 without insurance, and talk therapy can cost between $75-150 per hour. It’s clear we need more options to treat this disorder that effects so many, and medical cannabis is the perfect solution.
The body’s natural cannabinoid system, the endocannabinoid system, plays a major role in regulating anxiety throughout the body. Anandamide, an endocannabinoid operates in a similar manner to the phytocannbinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and effects the nervous systems. Anandamide augmentation was proven to relieve stress-related affective and anxiety disorders. Likewise taking cannabis may be an effective safe therapeutic strategy to mitigate the adverse behavioral and physiological consequences of stress. Both THC and CBD cannabinoids are proven beneficial for the treatment of anxiety through several mechanism.
Additionally, certain terpenes found in cannabis produce anti-anxiety effects by binding to GABAa receptor sites, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, creating the same effect as benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Five different terpenes in cannabis provide anti-anxiety results: β-Caryophyllene, Limonene, Linalool, Pinene and Phytol.
Treating anxiety with cannabis is nothing new, but in order to make these methods more effective there needs to be more education around how cannabis actually eases anxiety. Taking too much cannabis can actually create heightened anxiety (creating a sense of paranoia) if the patient isn’t aware of the correct ways to administer medical cannabis the relationship between the cannabinoids in cannabis and anxiety is complex. For example, THC at lower doses decreases anxiety, but increases anxiety at higher doses. Getting dosing correct is vital in treating anxiety with cannabis. Simply “smoking pot” won’t do the trick, and those suffering should consult physicians, conduct research and match their use with their specific needs. It’s an area of active our company is pursuing by delivering precision dosages of cannabinoids in smart NanoSphere nanoparticles.
It’s a Viable Replacement
The most common way to battle anxiety is through prescriptions of benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Librium, Valium and Lorazepam. Despite widespread use, there are several issues with these pills. First, it’s possible to develop both physical and psychological additions to these drugs, which causes severe withdrawal symptoms and even seizures. Benzodiazepines in high dosages can cause drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, confusion and can cause breathing issues. Those who use these pills regularly are also more likely to get dementia (source referenced below).
Benzodiazepines certainly provide benefits to many people, but given all the side-effects and associated issues, there should be more options for those fighting all types of anxiety disorders.
Canabo Medical conducted a study that showed a significant drop in benzodiazepine dependency among patients that were using medical cannabis treatments with doctor supervision. In fact, 40 percent of patients who were prescribed medical cannabis eliminated the use of benzodiazepines within 90 days.
Overall, yes, cannabis can significantly reduce benzodiazepine use for those with anxiety disorders. The key is responsibility with dosing and utilizing the right cannabinoids in the correct delivery method to meet the individual needs of the patient.