Cannabis-Induced Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Cannabis is a plant that contains various compounds called cannabinoids, such as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis can have different effects on anxiety disorders depending on the individual, the type of cannabis, and the dose.
Some studies suggest that cannabis can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress in the short term, and help with social anxiety, phobias, OCD, chronic pain, cancer, and insomnia. Other studies warn that cannabis can trigger anxiety, panic, paranoia, and psychosis, especially with high THC levels.
Anxiety is a common condition that affects many people and can be treated with medical cannabis in some states. However, cannabis use can also cause or worsen anxiety disorders. This is known as cannabis-induced anxiety disorder (CIAD).
CIAD is a type of substance-induced anxiety disorder that occurs when a person experiences significant anxiety symptoms during or after using cannabis. CIAD can affect anyone who uses cannabis, but some factors may increase the risk, such as:
- Having a history of anxiety disorders or other mental health problems
- Having a family history of anxiety disorders or psychosis
- Using high doses or potent strains of cannabis
- Using cannabis frequently or for a long time
- Using cannabis in stressful or unfamiliar situations
- Having low tolerance or sensitivity to cannabis
- Mixing cannabis with other substances such as alcohol or stimulants
Anxiety Disorders Associated with CIAD
CIAD can manifest as various types of anxiety disorders, such as:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life
- Panic disorder: recurrent and unexpected panic attacks that cause intense fear and physical symptoms
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD): marked fear and avoidance of social situations due to fear of being judged or embarrassed
- Phobic disorder: irrational and excessive fear of specific objects or situations
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): recurrent and intrusive thoughts and compulsions that cause distress and interfere with daily functioning
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): persistent and intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of trauma-related stimuli
Common Signs and Symptoms of CIAD
CIAD can also cause other symptoms such as:
- Depersonalization: feeling detached from oneself or one’s surroundings
- Derealization: feeling that the world is unreal or distorted
- Paranoia: having irrational or exaggerated suspicions or mistrust of others
- Hallucinations: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that are not there
- Delusions: having false or fixed beliefs that are not based on reality
CIAD can have negative impacts on a person’s quality of life, relationships, work, education, and health. Therefore, it is important to seek treatment if you suspect that you have CIAD.
Cannabis Induced Anxiety Disorder Treatment Modalities
Treatment for CIAD may involve different approaches depending on the severity and type of anxiety disorder. Some of the possible treatment options are:
- Quitting or reducing cannabis use: This is the first and most important step to treat CIAD. Quitting or cutting down on cannabis can help reduce or eliminate the anxiety symptoms caused by cannabis. However, quitting abruptly may cause withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, restlessness, cravings, mood swings, headaches, nausea, and appetite changes. Therefore, it is advisable to quit gradually with the help of a doctor or a counselor.
- Medications: Some medications may help treat CIAD by reducing anxiety symptoms or easing withdrawal symptoms. These may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or sedatives. However, medications should be used with caution and under medical supervision as they may have side effects or interactions with cannabis or other substances.
- Behavioral therapies: Counseling and behavioral therapies have proven to be highly effective in treating CIAD. The different types of therapies included are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This therapy focuses on teaching an individual the skills required to refrain from addiction and cope with negative thoughts and emotions that trigger anxiety.
- Exposure therapy: This therapy involves gradually exposing an individual to the feared stimuli or situations in a safe and controlled environment until they become less anxious.
- Relaxation techniques: These techniques involve learning to relax the body and mind through breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, etc.
- Motivational interviewing: This therapy helps an individual explore and resolve their ambivalence about quitting or reducing cannabis use and enhance their motivation and commitment to change.
- Contingency management: This therapy involves rewarding an individual for achieving specific goals or behaviors related to quitting or reducing cannabis use, such as providing vouchers, prizes, or positive feedback.
- Support groups: Joining a support group can help an individual to share their experiences, feelings, and challenges with others who have similar problems and receive social support and encouragement. Some examples of support groups are Marijuana Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery.
- Medicinal cannabis: In some cases, medicinal cannabis may be beneficial for treating CIAD or underlying anxiety disorder. Medicinal cannabis refers to cannabis products that are prescribed by a doctor for a specific medical condition. Medicinal cannabis may contain different ratios of THC and CBD, which affect anxiety differently.
- CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that has anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties. THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that has analgesic, anti-nausea, and appetite-stimulating properties. However, THC can also cause anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis in some people. Therefore, medicinal cannabis should be used with caution and under medical supervision. Some studies suggest that low doses of THC or CBD may reduce anxiety, while high doses of THC may increase anxiety.
- Other studies suggest that combining THC and CBD may produce treatments that not only reportedly eliminate inflammation but distort the perception of pain, so it’s less noticeable and more tolerable. This puts patients in better moods by alleviating their fears, worries, and other anxiety symptoms. Based on current data, cannabinoid therapies (containing primarily CBD) may provide a more suitable treatment for people with pre-existing anxiety or as a potential adjunctive role in managing anxiety or stress-related disorders.
CIAD is a serious condition that can affect anyone who uses cannabis. If you have CIAD or suspect that you have it, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. There are various treatment options available that can help you overcome your anxiety and improve your well-being.
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What is cannabis-induced anxiety disorder?
Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder (CIAD) is when a person experiences significant anxiety while using or after using cannabis. It can happen to anyone who uses cannabis, especially if they have a history of anxiety disorders, use strong cannabis, or mix it with other substances.
How can I prevent or manage cannabis-induced anxiety attacks?
To prevent or manage cannabis-induced anxiety attacks:
- Eat foods rich in terpenes (like mangoes, lemons, pine nuts, or lavender).
- Choose cannabis strains high in CBD.
- Try products that help with overconsumption (like CBD oil, lemon pepper, black pepper, or ibuprofen).
- Use small doses of cannabis.
- Distract yourself from activities or friends.
How can I treat cannabis-induced anxiety disorder?
Treatment for CIAD can include:
- Quitting or reducing cannabis use with the help of a doctor or counselor.
- Medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or sedatives (under medical supervision).
- Behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy.
- Joining support groups.
- In some cases, medicinal cannabis prescribed by a doctor may be beneficial, but it should be used cautiously and under medical supervision.
What are the signs and symptoms of cannabis-induced anxiety disorder?
Signs and symptoms include excessive worry, panic attacks with physical symptoms, fear of social situations, irrational fears, intrusive thoughts, traumatic memories, avoidance, detachment, mistrust of others, hallucinations, and fixed false beliefs.
What causes and risks are associated with a cannabis-induced anxiety disorder?
Factors contributing to cannabis-induced anxiety disorder include the effects of cannabis on the brain, dose and potency, type and strain used, method and frequency of use, and individual factors like personality, genetics, and environment.
How common is cannabis-induced anxiety disorder?
The prevalence is not well-established, but studies suggest it may affect around 14-20% of current cannabis users.