A team of experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), University of Calgary and The Rockefeller University summarized the current body of research on cannabis and anxiety.
As it turns out, despite marijuana’s wide range of effects, relief from anxiety and stress happens to be the most commonly reported reason for using marijuana.
“Cannabis and its derivatives have profound effects on a wide variety of behavioral and neural functions, ranging from feeding and metabolism to pain and cognition. However, epidemiological studies have indicated that the most common self-reported reason for using cannabis is rooted in its ability to reduce feelings of stress, tension, and anxiety.”
But while marijuana has long been regarded as an effective stress reliever, recent research has focused on the neurological activity responsible for this effect. What scientists now know is that marijuana acts on a system in the brain called the endocannabinoid system.
Interestingly, the authors also note evidence that suggests anxiety disorders could be caused by abnormalities of this biological system.
“The discovery of the ECB (endocannabinoid) system raised the possibility that ECBs (endocannabinoids) could be important modulators of anxiety, and might contribute to individual differences in anxious temperament and risk for anxiety disorders.”
Though scientists have identified over 60 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, its main psychoactive ingredient, THC, is strikingly similar to one of the first endocannabinoids discovered in humans, anandamide.
By acting on the same pathways of the brain, both seem to hold promise as a treatment for stress and anxiety. So it’s no surprise that people who suffer from excessive stress are finding relief in marijuana, a phenomenon that scientists call “self-medicating.”
Read More: Leaf Science