Marijuana and Anxiety: A Cause or Treatment of Anxiety, Panic Attacks
When some people use marijuana, they experience a relaxation and a reduction in anxiety symptoms. Some with anxiety disorders feel marijuana treats anxiety or panic attacks but medical evidence shows marijuana causes anxiety in new users, chronic users and during marijuana withdrawal. Additionally, when using marijuana, anxiety-coping skills can be difficult to learn and use.
Marijuana and Anxiety - Marijuana and Anxiety Treatment
Because the "high" of marijuana causes anxiety to decrease for many people, those with anxiety disorders sometimes "self-medicate" their anxiety with marijuana. For a while, taking marijuana for anxiety, or marijuana for panic attacks, may seem helpful, but tolerance to the drug's effect can quickly build to the point where the user no longer feels the anti-anxiety effects of marijuana. Then, users often increase their dose of marijuana to again decrease anxiety symptoms.
Unfortunately, with increased dosescomes increased tolerance and the greater likelihood of marijuana addiction. Nearly 7% - 10% of regular marijuana users become dependent on marijuana.1 Those dependent on marijuana often feel anxiety during marijuana withdrawal, or periods of abstinence, regardless as to preexisting anxiety conditions. Marijuana highs can also produce extreme anxiety and paranoia. (read: negative effects of marijuana)
Because no study has found evidence marijuana treats anxiety or marijuana treats panic attacks, medical marijuana for anxiety is not available.
Marijuana and Anxiety - Marijuana Causes Anxiety
Marijuana is a preparation of the cannabis plant and cannabis-induced anxiety disorder is a recognized illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) of mental illness. This marijuana-anxiety disorder can appear in new or chronic users of marijuana.
Addressing the fact that marijuana causes anxiety, here are some criteria for a cannabis-induced anxiety disorder:
- Anxiety, panic attacks, obsessions or compulsions
- Anxiety tied to marijuana use or marijuana withdrawal
Marijuana is also known to cause psychotic and delusional disorders which can worsen anxiety.
Marijuana and Anxiety - Anxiety and Marijuana Withdrawal
Use of marijuana and anxiety are linked, as is withdrawal from marijuana and anxiety. Marijuana withdrawal can occur when marijuana tolerance is achieved or when a user abuses marijuana. While withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, anxiety and marijuana withdrawal are closely linked.
Anxiety-related marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:2
- Difficulty sleeping
Last Updated: 22 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD