Is Marijuana Good for Anxiety?

Today I want to talk to you about pot.

But lest you think that I’m some closet stoner that wants to promote marijuana use. Trust me , this isn’t coming out of the blue. Paul Dooley just isn’t that spontaneous.

The whole marijuana thing is a pretty big issue right now in my home state of California. In recent mid-term elections a ballot measure called Proposition 19 (The marijuana legalization initiative) was defeated.

But Prop 19 wasn’t hammered into defeat  like you might imagine. Something like 46% of Californians voted in favor of legalizing marijuana. So, I thought, damn that means that pot will likely become legal in California, someday.

If that happens what’s the implication for the anxious person? The law abiding citizen who stayed clean all those years and could suddenly go to the corner store and pick up some bud? Should that person, should you, go to the store when it’s available as a way to deal with anxiety?

It’s an interesting question. Not only that, it’s really the fact that it even came up for a vote that was somewhat surprising. And add to that all the media hoopla surrounding this issue and that’s how this marijuana question came back into my field of view.

So, the real question is: Is Marijuana Good for Anxiety, whatever its legal status?

I had a contributor named Andy tackle this issue a while back and it stirred the pot (pun intended) for sure. There was a lot of back and forth then about whether it was a good idea for anxious people to smoke pot or not and I’m sure that’s still the case. It is by it’s very nature a polarizing question.

I did produce a podcast to answer this question in detail so I won’t rehash everything  here. I do however want to point out some highlights of what I think is true about marijuana and whether or not it’s good for anxiety.

The Good

Some strands of marijuana, specifically indica, have been known to relieve stress and anxiety.

Marijuana has also been known to be an effective pain reliever.

The Bad

Marijuana can cause hallucinations and make you paranoid.

And using any substance to help you cope with anxiety always has its drawbacks because essentially you’re using a crutch and not dealing with the issues that are keeping you anxious.

Plus, why add more problems to your life? There is the expense, possible legal issues, and you having to deal with shady characters from time to time.

My Take

If you know you’re prone to anxiety then I think smoking pot is a bad choice. Instead, try to learn as much as you can about anxiety, the fight or flight response, relaxation techniques, and CBT.

Personally I haven’t smoked pot for more than a decade. I was really just out of adolescence the last time I sparked up and I’m glad. I have no use for drugs, of any kind, to help me handle my anxiety.

But I will concede that some people are helped by pot and many other drugs, like antidepressants for example. So I think you should do whatever works for you as long as it’s safe and effective.

So, what do you think about all this? Is marijuana good for anxiety? If it became legal would that make you a more likely user? Give us your brilliant opinion below.

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  • Bryan3000

    Good article/podcast, Paul. Not a smoker myself, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with anxiety. To me, there’s too much of a loss of control, which lends to the issue of anxiety in the first place. I’m not promoting booze either, but given the choice… I’d think an occasional glass of wine to be less damaging to anxiety than smoking pot. But, people have to research these things and make their own decisions.

    Nice round-up, and I look forward to your next!

  • http://anxietyguru.net Paul Dooley

    Hey Bryan, I agree 100%. I just think that there are better ways to get a handle on anxiety.

  • Chris Spalding

    I really enjoyed this article. I have recently become somewhat crippled from my anxiety. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. My brother has dealt with depression and anxiety before me, but that is all I know about history in my family. One thing that I have found to be extremely effective for me and my anxious feelings has been pot. I am a teenage college student, and I could be classified as a typical stoner. But, I really have made a big change in my life by smoking pot. I am a daily user for sure, and in recent weeks I have started feeling more confident and happier even when sober. Now, I know my opinion is going to be quickly discredited because I am a daily user and a teenager. But I have done quite a bit of research of things that will help me. I have seen doctors, I have taken anti-depressants, but nothing works for me the way a quick smoke session with a couple friends does. I feel relaxed, confident, and most importantly, happy. I feel like I can be myself, but not as a crutch. Smoking isn’t something I need to do just to make it through the day. But when I am feeling a little down, or stressed, or anxious, pot curbs that and I can get on with my day care free. It is not something that inhibits my abilities to go about every day life too. I have a job and am a very good employee. I am rarely late to work and I would never be caught dead just standing around doing nothing. I like to get things done.
    One negative stereotype that frequent users like myself have, is that we are lazy and have no motivation. That is true in some cases, but not for everyone. I am a go-getter and pot has done nothing to change that. The only problem for me is that in my state, marijuana is still criminalized. But I don’t know why it should be if it can do something like this for me. It has made me able to overcome anxiety that had begun to keep me from being a fully functioning member of society because I just couldn’t handle the stress. Marijuana changed my life for the better. I just want more people to know how good it can be if utilized instead of abused.

  • Steve

    The whole thing with pot and anxiety is a bit vague. It totally depends on what type of anxiety disorder you’re talking about. As someone who’s dealt with anxiety his whole life and is fighting a horrid Xanax (prescribed) detox, pot is definately good for GAD, but not so much for Panic disorder or Social anxiety, (got all 3 plus agraphobia). Sure strain has something to do with how well it’s going to help too. Before I was prescribed a benzo, I self-medicated with too much pot and it make my social anxiety go through the roof. But now when I get my hands on some good herb, all it takes is one hit for my GAD to dissapear. Plus I don’t need a benzo sleeping pill. 3 hits and I’m sleeping like a baby. No morning hangover either. Just ask yourself, “do the benefits outweigh the risks”? If they do, than go for it. I too was a bust-ass worker even when completely stoned outta my head, yet some ppl can’t even keep a job. Everything is individual.

  • jeff

    Everyone uses the whole crutch excuse for the use of a vice. It depends on how you look at things. Some people when they feel real anxious eat comfort food, a glass of wine as someone had said, or take long hot showers.
    Some will even just sit and do nothing at all. Just sit in a nasty rut and let it pass. What good is the last? What do you do when food wine and even herb, herb doesn’t always help? Sometimes people just need to be anxious, it teaches us the unimportance of being tense.
    I personally think the doctors have it wrong…well most doctors, and the self medicaters. Few of these people will say you don’t need to do anything to be rid of your anxiety, they will prescribe pills herbs syrups, foods exercises. My mother once told me maybe I was feeling anxious all the time because I wasn’t doing certain things in life. For a while I thought that was true. I don’t think so anymore. This theory can be summed up by the puritan philosophy of confucius “if the mat is not straight the master does not sit”. Well can the master not sit? He chooses not to sit because he thinks the crooked mat prevents him from doing so. Yet he could sit at anytime.
    As for if gas stations and grocery stores bars etc could sell weed ppl would go out and smoke it since it was made ok. It sure sounds like that’s how it should work. But I don’t see ppl like my parents my boss police officers etc going out and getting high just cuz it was made ok. There would still be drug testing and duis. It’s still a vice. Still a substance.

  • Joel

    One thing, Marijuana does not cause hallucinations, at least not too the extent of say… shrooms. It`s very, very, very mild and you don`t see anything. You should probably have mentioned this.

  • Will

    I agree with Joel. I am an experienced toker and I can tell you personally that I have never seen legitimate hallucinations from pot. When on marijuana you can have a feeling that certain aspects of life are enhanced. For example, your thoughts being so dominant you forget that their all in your head and you’re not actually saying or hearing them. Some people’s imaginations are enhanced to make them believe that they’re seeing hallucinations. Besides, there are many more benefits from smoking marijuana aside from stress and pain relief. You left out many aspects of the experience itself, and how spirit-lifting it can really be. Such as how much more amazing all music sounds, or how much more amazing food tastes, or how beautiful the world can really be. It really can help you appreciate all life has to offer. Dependencies and addictions are a problem with any medicine or stimulant, a strong mind knows moderation is key with all indulgences.

  • 054736

    I am 17 and have GAD ( GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER) It has truly been horrible and even with exercising thinking positive thoughts therapy and being prescribed prozac ( which didnt work and had awful side effects) now im on zoloft which hasnt kicked in yet and I doubt it will because its in the same class as prozac (SSRIS) now because my GAD has gotten so bad im taking Klonopin which is in the class of benzodiazepines which hasnt worked all that well and even if i do get get some relief Ive researched some awful addictions and side effects of long term use of Klonopin. When I self medicated with cannabis my GAD Virtually disappeared maybe it wasnt the THC but the other Cannabinoids in Marijuana ( just speculation) that inhibited the anxiety.

  • amanda

    I’m 28 years old, mother of two VERY busy boys and I’m a “stoner” I grew up in an alcoholic family were survival was day to day. Now I was not ever physically or sexually abused. It’s not like that. It was all mental. I started smoking when I was a teenager, at that time it was something to do as well as a “gateway” out of my current situation.
    When I got pregnant in my 20′s I had quite. I had been smoke free for about 5 years. Until things around me starting to fall apart. I was experiencing anxiety (although at that time I was unaware of what I was feeling) Then my partner and I started fighting. I jokingly said “wouldn’t it be fun to just giggle for a bit” Well we did and never looked back. My life before smoking I was tired, cranky, had no sex drive. Now I have more energy, I feel more connected to my kids and partner. I’m able to not think just about me and my terrible feelings inside. I feel more proactive in my home and with my kids. My brain isn’t swimming/spinning with guilt and what if’s.
    This morning as I type this I am fighting myself. I thought that maybe I should stop smoking I’m doing myself no good. But I’ll tell you not an minute has passed where my heart isn’t pounding and I feel like I’m running. I’m so anxious I can’t eat. Which is another positive for me as I can’t seem to put the weight on especially when I feel stressed.
    The good thing about pot is that it turns off those anxious moments, the what if’s, the feeling of inadequacy. I helps me relax enough to where I can look at the world almost through a different pair of glasses. And calmly see the beauty in my life. Sounds stupid I know, but whats the difference minus the legal aspect; I’m on celexa and I was on Xanex and neither one is helping near as much. Maybe in time I’ll learn to cope in a different manor but at the current moment life is far to crazy and stressful not to have my “crutch” and as if being a super mom, partner and woman isn’t enough stress….

  • Billy

    I enjoyed this article and the comments, and would like to start by saying I have been an avid pot head since I was sixteen. But now six years later, I feel like my smoking habits are hindering my job and everyday life. Now mind you, I dont mean the pot itself is causing the problem, more of it just doesn’t help a problem I am recently discovering I have. Ive always thought the way that I feel is how everyone does, I just needed to learn to deal with it. Well it’s gotten to an uncontrollable point and I know I need help to fix it. After reading countless things and seeing how eerily similar others people ls episodes are ive learned that anxiety depression and bi polar disorder are things that cannot be handled alone sometimes. However now that I’m aware, im not sure who to turn to. I hadn’t seen anyone talking about pot not working so much in their favor, and wanted to say that being a habitual smoker did not help my anxiety. Maybe if I had learned to not smoke too much or so often I wouldnt feel the need to stop smoking to better myself. Im really looking for opinions about my situation and what I can do.

  • Jcdallas

    I did not read the other comments but the fact that one should just whe there is a plant that is grown naturally from our soil makes people smile and laugh and hope that you just ignore the ignorance and do what makes you happy and peaceful in your mind. Let those that are so worried about correcting others be stressed out. Life is all you make it and do everything Inproportion

  • Muluc

    Anxiety ruled my life. On many occasions, Breathing seemed tougher, My body would shake uncontrollably, and I was unable to speak. It felt as if I could speak just fine, though I would take a breath to speak, and was only able to produce a sigh. On top of anxiety depression was also a factor. I would feel my life was worthless. Even feeling like I was dragging people down just by being alive. That was until I smoked marijuana. I didn’t figure it out at first, but after a while I realized that marijuana was taking both my depression and anxiety away. Making a really long story short, I have figured out the following. Some marijuana strains will actually cause anxiety(Higher THC), while other strains take anxiety away(Lower THC). No matter what the strain, marijuana always keeps my depression away. By taking a single puff every other day, I am a completely new man! Marijuana has been a miracle for me! Though if I don’t smoke at all for about 6 days or so my anxiety comes back rather quickly, followed by depression that slowly creeps in within weeks of not smoking. Out of many hundreds of people I have smoked with, I have never heard of anyone having hallucinations, and the only paranoia is more from it’s legal status, and getting caught smoking. Though sometimes people who don’t smoke often are paranoid about looking foolish. Best way to use I found is to not get high. Just a single hit every other day, and stay away from marijuana with higher THC levels as they seem to cause anxiety. I have been successfully using marijuana as medicine this way for about 12 years now, with nothing but positive effects!

  • justmealone

    Do whatever it takes to relieve your stress and anxiety. My husband died of ALS LOU GHERIGS demonic disease, and I have nothing left. I was going to kill myself. Pot saved my life. The anti depressants will kill you. They almost killed me, giving me thoughts of suicide that never truly go away. I’m here for now but I don’t know how much longer I can take it…

  • JK

    Hi

    I have smoked my entire life. I would not want my children to smoke it until they were of age to make a rational decision. Marijuana has it moments with anxiety. Sometimes it does help and other times it adds to it. Which could be the point made by another post. Indica is a stronger form than Stavia. Indica in my opinion could help anxiety. I have struggled with both anxiety and depression all of my life and I have been on a lot of different anti-depressant drugs which were useless. None of them helped. Marijuana is a lesser form. Alcohol which can not be disputed is more dangerous than marijuana. It has been an accepted part of society for a long time. It has crippled people and killed people. Marijuana has never crippled or killed any one. If you truly read the history of why it was prohibited you would understand it had nothing to do with the drug aspects but only due to a rich powerful person that hemp was defaulting his business. I welcome any one to read up on it and why the 1937 tax act was implemented. It was not because of a threat of a drug. It was all about money. Hence welcome to America.