Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress. Individuals with panic disorder may have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly without warning with an impending sense of doom or loss of control.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. Individuals with PTSD may have persistent frightening thoughts and memories, experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily distracted.
Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to one type of situation – such as the fear of speaking in public – or it may be so broad that the individual experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people. This fear may be associated with physical symptoms and may interfere with work, school, and normal activities.
Once diagnosed, anxiety disorders are generally treated with medication, psychotherapy, or both. Patients with anxiety disorders must often try several different treatments, or combination of treatments, before they find one that works for them.
Although antidepressants were developed to treat depression, they are also often used for anxiety disorders. These medications have been associated with multiple serious side effects, however, including making some patients commit suicide.
High-potency benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan, or Xanax are also used to combat anxiety. These medications, however, are associated with tolerance, dependence, and generally cannot be used for extended periods of time.
As an alternative, medical cannabis is a highly effective anxiety-relieving agent, has minimal associated side effects, and many patients report that it works much better for their anxiety conditions than prescription drugs.
The first known reference to the use of cannabis for the relief of anxiety dates back to 1500 BC in India. In more modern times, an 1860 Report of the Ohio State Medical Committee on Cannabis indica stated:
“As a calmative and hypnotic, in all forms of nervous inquietude and cerebral excitement, it will be found an invaluable agent, as it produces none of those functional derangements or sequences that render many of the more customary remedies objectionable.”
Scientists now understand that a cannabinoid molecule known as cannabidiol, or CBD, is responsible for many of cannabis’ anxiety-relieving effects. CBD, like the more well-known cannabinoid THC, is one of over 100 such molecules found in the cannabis plant. CBD has been shown to act on natural receptors that are found in our nervous system known as CB1 receptors. Although they didn’t know why in 1860, the Ohio State Medical Committee noted that Indica strains of cannabis are most effective in treating anxiety. This is because Indica strains contain higher levels of CBD than Sativa strains.
It is important to remember that there are many ways to use cannabis as alternatives to smoking. These include vaporization, tinctures, edible products, topical applications, teas, and raw plant extracts.