Can marijuana help ease pandemic anxiety?

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With a national disruption to routine and a general destabilizing effect on our collective mood in the U.S., the coronavirus is causing an uptick in anxiety nationwide.

Between mid-February and mid-March, anti-anxiety medication prescriptions rose 34 per cent, according to a new report from Express Scripts.

This represents a stark 180-degree turn, as doctors prescribed benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium less in recent years. Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication dropped more than 12 per cent over the past years, it is reported, but the trend seems undone by the coronavirus pandemic.

The rapid prescription rise seems to correspond with when the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global pandemic.

Anxiety isn’t the only mental disorder exacerbated by the global pandemic. Antidepressant prescriptions jumped 18.6 per cent while sleep medications rose 14.8 per cent over the same timeframe.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, but don’t want to rely on pharmaceutical medications, some say cannabis can help. A 2015 rat study reported that marijuana “could potentially help” reduce symptoms from stress-induced depression. Additional animal studies found that taking CBD amid dramatic instability resulted in less stressful experiences versus those who did not.

But a landmark 2018 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders provides the most significant answers. Using data provided by the cannabis app Strainprint, researchers saw that around 90 per cent of app users reported decreases in symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress after smoking cannabis.

“Cannabis reduces perceived symptoms of negative affect in the short-term, but continued use may exacerbate baseline symptoms of depression over time.” / Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus iStock / Getty Images Plus

Researchers did see less dramatic results over time with depression symptoms, but not with anxiety and stress. That may be an indicator that in a time of intensive short-term instability, marijuana might work best for some.

“Cannabis reduces perceived symptoms of negative affect in the short-term, but continued use may exacerbate baseline symptoms of depression over time,” researchers concluded.

The study emphasized consuming proper strains of marijuana to combat specific symptoms. Those with anxiety sometimes worry that smoking marijuana will cause worse symptoms of paranoia and deep unrest.

If a person receives cannabis from a friend or at a party, it isn’t optimized for their best practice. In those situations, where the cannabis has been purchased on the black market, you could be smoking a high-THC strain without realizing it.

The aforementioned study noted those strains aren’t ideal for anxiety symptoms. Instead, a better option might be high-CBD or 1:1 CBD/THC strains to lower feelings of anxiety or stress.

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