6 Alternatives To Using Marijuana For Anxiety

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One in five adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety. Using marijuana to deal with the effects of an anxiety disorder can aggravate symptoms. Fortunately, there are methods of managing anxiety symptoms that don’t involve substance use.

6 Alternatives To Using Marijuana For Anxiety

Nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder. This figure equates to almost one in every five people, and the numbers have only continued to increase over time.

Experiencing emotions like unease, fear, and worry can interfere with a person’s daily life. Many anxiety sufferers spend their lives searching for the perfect remedy to alleviate these emotions.

Some people with anxiety may use marijuana as a means of relief. Although cannabis may help lower anxiety in some people, it can actually worsen side effects of anxiety in others.

Rather than jeopardizing their mental health by experimenting with marijuana, people with anxiety disorders can try safer approaches.

Why Might Marijuana Make Anxiety Worse?

Using marijuana for the treatment of anxiety is a short-term solution. Over time, marijuana use is linked to increased levels of substance use, including cannabis use disorder.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive component in marijuana. Studies have found that THC may reduce anxiety at low doses but increase anxiety at higher doses.

Every person’s tolerance level is different, which makes it difficult to predict how the brain might respond to any amount of THC. Regular use of marijuana can also increase a person’s tolerance.

Because it’s hard to determine the right dose, many marijuana users self-medicate via experimentation. If a person purchases cannabis from a street dealer, the concerns segue into the drug being “laced,” or contaminated with other substances.

Marijuana use is also linked to depression and worsening mood disorders.

How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain?

The body processes marijuana through the endocannabinoid system. Cannabis contains cannabinoids, which are compounds that bind to specialized receptors in the brain.

Because cannabinoids offer pain relief properties, medical marijuana may be prescribed to chronic pain sufferers as an alternative to opioids. Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and HIV/AIDS are medical conditions that may be treated with medical cannabis.

However, whether marijuana is used for medical purposes or not, it still has effects on the brain. Marijuana use mostly affects the areas responsible for learning, attention, decision-making, and memory.

THC can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, but it also causes impairment in thinking. In some people with anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions, it can also instigate panic attacks.

Are Some Methods Of Marijuana Use Safer Than Others?

In short, no. The potency of marijuana differs depending on the intake method, which further complicates its role in anxiety relief.

If a person vapes marijuana cartridges, consumes marijuana edibles, or smokes marijuana cigarettes, the amount of cannabis that’s processed by the body differs across all methods.

However, purchasing recreational or medicinal cannabis from a dispensary is safer than purchasing cannabis from a street dealer, because the products and their components are regulated.

Safe Methods For Managing Anxiety

Instead of using marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs to self-soothe, there are a myriad of solutions that can help reduce anxiety, both now and in the long term.

Some of these alternatives focus on short-term relief in the here and now, while others address anxiety symptoms over time.

1. Talk Therapy

Speaking with a licensed therapist can offer several benefits to a person with anxiety. Therapists can help people develop a deeper understanding of their triggers and learn how to cope.

Over time, a therapist can help a person identify the source of their anxiety. This impactful experience can encourage internal healing and possibly eliminate the anxiety altogether.

2. Doctor-Prescribed Medication

If anxiety symptoms interfere with the quality of a person’s life, it may be possible to receive a prescription from a licensed practitioner or psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists can determine if a person with anxiety may benefit from a daily medication, such as an antidepressant, or medication they can take during moments of anxiety.

Although some anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines, can be habit-forming, there are many medications that are non-habit-forming and considered safe for use.

3. Managing Physical Health

The two main ways to address an anxiety disorder is through a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, when used in tandem with the above, there are other ways to further manage symptoms.

One of the ways to keep your anxiety at a minimum is to take care of your physical health.

Taking care of your physical health may include:

  • getting enough sleep, i.e., between seven and nine hours per night
  • eating a balanced diet
  • daily exercise, e.g., walks, hikes, or trips to the gym
  • abstaining from alcohol and illicit drugs

Being motivated enough to look after our physical health can feel impossible while in the throes of anxiety. If you can relate, try practicing at least one of these suggestions every day to start.

4. Practicing Breathing Exercises

Anxiety can feel like you’re frozen in time and that there’s no ending in sight. It triggers your fight, flight, or freeze responses, which can make any solution seem impossible.

Fortunately, there are breathing techniques you can try during moments of anxiety. These techniques encourage a focus on the breath to relax the mind and calm the body.

One of these breathing techniques is known as the 4-7-8 relaxing method.

To perform the 4-7-8 relaxing method, follow these steps:

  • Breathe in through your nose for four to eight counts.
  • Hold your breath for seven counts.
  • Exhale slowly for eight counts.
  • Repeat the above steps four times, or until you feel more relaxed.

This breathing technique and others work to slow down your heart rate and gradually bring the body out of fight, flight, or freeze mode.

5. Alternative Therapies

In addition to talk therapy, you can experiment with alternative methods. Some of these methods work to bring your focus to the present moment, while others aim to draw stress out of the body.

A few examples of alternative therapies for anxiety include:

  • acupuncture
  • animal therapy
  • aromatherapy
  • Bach flower remedies
  • cryotherapy
  • herbal remedies
  • hypnotherapy
  • massage therapy
  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • reflexology
  • relaxation training
  • tai chi
  • yoga

6. CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active ingredient derived from the hemp plant that does not contain psychoactive elements.

CBD products, such as pills, gummies, oils, and even creams, are believed to offer healing properties that help with pain, inflammation, anxiety and depression, and more.

Although CBD products are increasing in popularity and don’t contain psychoactive ingredients, they are not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Because CBD products aren’t approved at the federal level, health care providers may not suggest their use. CBD is also not widely encouraged or approved in regard to substance abuse treatment.

Healing Anxiety, One Step At A Time

Symptoms of anxiety can leave a person feeling mentally and physically exhausted, overwhelmed, and hopeless.

Fortunately, there are many treatment options for people with anxiety to try while working with their doctor or a mental health treatment provider.

Healing doesn’t happen overnight, but symptoms of anxiety can become easier to manage over time.

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