Cannabis could be your solution to stress and anxiety this holiday season.

We love the holiday season, but it can be pretty stressful.

And with the added challenges that COVID-19 brings, mental health professionals already see a spike in people seeking help for stress and anxiety.

Thankfully, a growing body of research points to cannabis as an effective treatment for a range of anxiety disorders.

That’s good news. After all the challenges you’ve dealt with this year, you deserve to unwind during the holidays. Here’s how cannabis can help.

The Stress Test

A 2017 study found THC can reduce anxiety caused by stressful activities.

In one test, research participants consumed cannabis before an intense fake job interview. The pretend interviewers offered no feedback – verbally or through body language – while an ominous screen continually displayed the participants’ performance.

At a low dose, the weed helped take the edge off. The participants who consumed 7.5 mg of THC reported less stress after the tests, and their stress levels lowered faster.

 “Our findings provide some support for the common claim that cannabis is used to reduce stress and relieve tension and anxiety,” said Emma Childs, associate professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author on the study.

Too Much of a Good Thing

But there’s a caveat. Participants who received a higher dosage before the tests – 12.5 mg – reported increased anxiety.

“Our finding that participants in the higher THC group reported small but significant increases in anxiety and negative mood throughout the test supports the idea that THC can also produce the opposite effect,” said Childs.

How can THC both suppress and increase anxiety? And more importantly, what can we do to make sure it’s good vibes only?

Let’s dig a little deeper and look at how cannabinoids like THC take effect.

The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system helps keep our bodies in balance, and it’s present before we’re born.

“The endocannabinoid system exists throughout our life, before we’re born,” says Dr. Ruth Ross, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Toronto. “It’s there in people who have never been exposed to cannabis. It explains how cannabis works, but cannabis is not why it exists.”

So why does the endocannabinoid system exist?

The endocannabinoid system promotes homeostasis, which means maintaining stable conditions in the body despite internal or external changes. It helps us relax, eat, fall asleep, and forget painful memories.

The body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the brain and body. Plant-made phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD can also bind with these receptors.

THC, Anxiety, and the Brain

When THC binds with CB1 receptors in the brain, it inhibits the release of many excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.

Two primary neurotransmitters moderate anxiety in the brain: glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is anxiogenic (increases anxiety), while GABA is anxiolytic (reduces anxiety).

When THC binds to CB1 receptors on glutamatergic neurons, it inhibits the release of glutamate.  An appropriate dose of THC, therefore, reduces anxiety.

 Conversely, too much THC reduces GABA in the brain. Reduced GABA levels can lead to higher glutamate levels and increased anxiety.

A Little Goes a Long Way

As we’ve seen, consuming the right amount of THC is crucial to treating anxiety effectively. The perfect dose differs for every individual, so how do we find that sweet spot? 

Dustin Sulak, an osteopathic physician and medicinal cannabis expert based in Maine, suggests you increase the THC by small increments until you find your “minimal effective dose.”

“Before consuming, ask yourself three questions, and answer on a scale of one to 10: How easy is it to breathe, how comfortable and calm does your body feel, and how easy is it for you to smile authentically, to feel content and grateful?” he says.

Consume 1 mg, wait 45 minutes, and then ask yourself the same questions. No change? Try another milligram until you find your perfect dose.

The Dream Team

Sulak suggests you consume THC alongside CBD to get the best out of both cannabinoids. 

The research backs his claims. A 2009 study showed CBD could mitigate THC’s side effects, including its anxiogenic effects at higher doses.

More recently, a 2018 study proved consuming cannabis high in CBD and THC produced the most considerable reductions in stress.

“Our study shows that CBD is also a very important ingredient in cannabis and may augment some of the positive effects of THC,” said Carrie Cuttler, clinical assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University and lead author of the study.

Nibble Your Stress Away

We make High Notes edibles with full-spectrum THC, which means every bite contains a hit of CBD.

Plus, our premium, cannabis-infused chews are made with all-natural Oregon cannabis oil so that you can relax the natural way.

If you’re feeling the stress over the holidays, consider a nibble on one of our cannabis chews. With three delicious flavors available, relaxation never tasted so good.

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