“Many cannabis users and businesses are invested in the idea of cannabis as an anxiety treatment. The position invites skepticism: marijuana companies have a financial interest in promoting a maximalist view of the drug’s benefits, and in patients, it can look like a rationalization for excessive use.
As with other health conditions, the available research is inconclusive and limited due to decades-old restrictions on medical marijuana research. To sort through some of the ambiguities surrounding cannabis and anxiety, I spoke to Jordan Tishler, a Boston-area doctor who has a cannabis-focused practice.
Anxiety, Tishler said, referred more to a disorder when feelings of worry or distress arise for no specific reason. Fewer people take medical marijuana for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than stress, and the research about whether it works “is all over the map”.
The little research that does exist on the topic lacks specific information such as how much cannabis people take (dosing) and when in the day they ingest it. Additionally, the proportion of THC and CBD content of the product the subjects use is not clear. This makes it very difficult to gauge the drug’s efficacy. “People are very bad at reporting this stuff accurately,” Tishler said.
One of the driving forces of US cannabis legalization is the hope among military veterans that cannabis may relieve PTSD. “PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder have a lot in common,” Tishler said, and based on his practice he believes cannabis can be an effective treatment for PTSD. However, there is an added concern that veterans, in his experience, seem more likely to become heavy cannabis users very quickly, in part because they’re relying more on advice from their peers than their doctors.