Lots of people with anxiety are using cannabis to treat their symptoms. But the science indicates that cannabis probably doesn’t help, and it may make those symptoms worse.
Cannabis companies have promoted their products as helpful for anxiety, making for a potentially lucrative market. And plenty of people believe cannabis to be helpful for anxiety. A 2017 national survey of more than 9,000 Americans found that 81 percent believed cannabis had one or more health benefits. Nearly half of these respondents listed “anxiety, stress, and depression relief” as potential benefits.
But there also seems to be just as many people who say cannabis makes their anxiety worse. Cannabis may help temporarily reduce anxiety symptoms, but for some people it may also make anxiety worse.
Recent studies show the potential problems with treating anxiety with cannabis.
Cannabis use was significantly associated with increased odds of developing anxiety, according to research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. And another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concludes that recent cannabis use was associated with more severe symptoms in people with anxiety and mood disorders.
A 2020 review by psychiatrists at the University of Melbourne, concluded “the evidence is too weak’ to prove cannabis helps anxiety, depression or insomnia”.
“Many reviews were unable to provide firm conclusions on the effectiveness of medical cannabis, and results of reviews were mixed. Mild adverse effects were frequently but inconsistently reported, and it is possible that harms may outweigh benefits.”
It’s difficult to find much evidence to prove cannabis helps anxiety.
“In general, the limited amount of evidence surprised all of us,” said lead author Marian S. McDonagh, Pharm.D., emeritus professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine.
“Unfortunately, there is very little scientifically valid research into most these products,” she said. “We saw only a small group of observational cohort studies on cannabis products that would be easily available in states that allow it, and these were not designed to answer the important questions on treating chronic pain.”
The cannabis industry has funded its own studies. In one 2022 study, researchers affiliated with a chain of cannabis clinics found that people using medical cannabis for anxiety saw a “clinically significant” improvement in levels of anxiety. There is also some evidence that CBD may relieve anxiety symptoms, but the science is very limited.
In summary, the evidence is too weak to prove cannabis helps anxiety, and regular cannabis use comes with plenty of associated risks.
**Note – This post was written by Family First staff writers.
Learn more here.