Is marijuana good for social anxiety?
Social anxiety is a mental disorder where the individual has the tendency to not interact with other people because of an exaggerated fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or teased in public. The standard treatment of social anxiety relies on prescribing different types of drugs such as
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Medical marijuana, controversial medication
It has been proved that marijuana is beneficial in treating:
loss of appetite
extreme weight loss
various pain disorders etc.
The use of medical marijuana in the treatment of anxiety disorders is the subject of many debates all over the world. According to Marijuana Medical Handbook, the positive effect of marijuana in patients suffering from social anxiety is related to mood improvement and decrease of self-consciousness.
The main ingredients of marijuana
Marijuana contains more than 60 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The most researched and disputed as well are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
THC has psychoactive properties and is the main component of marijuana. The studies about the THC revealed that the effectiveness on anxiety level varies according to THC dosage. Higher doses increase anxiety and may lead to paranoia and panic attacks, while lower doses reduce anxiety and alleviate nervous tension.
THC is also known as the substance responsible to get marijuana users high. This is the reason why a lot of people choose to self-medicate with marijuana to better deal with depression and anxious situations.
CBD is a non-psychoactive constituent of marijuana. A clinical trial dated from 2011 showed that CBD had a positive impact on patients facing social anxiety while speaking in public. The group of people who received CBD displayed less discomfort and insecurity. On the other hand, they also noticed an increased amount of anxiety and negative self-evaluation in the placebo group.
The authors of the study claim that CBD provides real benefits in the treatment of social anxiety, but more research and tests on larger groups are necessary to confirm this trial’s results.
What is the endocannabinoid system
The human body has the ability to produce its own cannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), located mostly in the brain and the immune system. The cannabinoids and their receptors form the body’s natural endocannabinoid system, whose role is to control anxiety and the response to different stress factors by reducing the excitatory signals.
If the individual experiences strong emotions or chronic stress, the production of cannabinoids and the responsiveness of their receptors decrease. The brain remains without the help of this natural buffer, so that anxiety gains ground. Here is marijuana plays its part by acting as a stress reliever and reducing anxiety.
The connection between social anxiety and cannabis use disorder
One of the potential risks for marijuana/cannabis users is the development of a cannabis-related disorder, known as cannabis use disorder (CUD). CUD includes typical symptoms for cannabis addiction as well as a non-addicted form which is connected to cannabis abuse. Recent studies published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, launched the idea that people diagnosed with CUD are also prone to meeting the criteria for a social phobia diagnosis.
Statistically, in four of five cases, social anxiety foregoes the development of CUD. This fact leads to the opinion that people who become anxious in various social situations tend to consume marijuana in an attempt to sooth their fears. Higher levels of anxiety offer the motivation for higher marijuana intakes.
People respond differently to the effects of marijuana. Some deal with it just fine feeling calm and relaxed, while others may experience paranoid episodes and increased amount of anxiety. Moreover, it is a fine line between consuming marijuana from time to time with the purpose of better handling difficult moments, to becoming a heavy user.
Medical prescription for marijuana in the treatment of social anxiety is a delicate subject for health practitioners. More conclusive trials and research need to be done before freely prescribing marijuana in anxiety disorders.