Even before COVID-19 swept across the nation and the globe, killing tens of thousands of people and sickening millions more, and shuttering businesses, schools, and places of social gathering, America was carrying a heavy burden of anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million American adults — nearly 20 percent of the adult population — suffer from an anxiety disorder. And, again, that was before the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, the pandemic seems destined to unleash a tidal wave of anxiety. While it’s too soon to judge just how huge the wave will be, telemedicine psychotherapy services like BetterHelp and Talkspace are seeing a sharp upward trend. “Talkspace has definitely seen an uptick in people seeking therapy—for both new and returning patients,” a company spokesperson told Time magazine, which produced a feature on coronavirus anxiety. “Since mid-February Talkspace’s user volume is up around 65 percent.”
A survey of more than 400 regular cannabis users by the brand Goldenweed revealed that 40 percent said they’re turning to marijuana more often during the pandemic. Of those nearly three in four said their primary motivation was “stress and anxiety relief.”
“Cannabis has a long track record of being used to treat anxiety and the insomnia that often accompanies it. It is no surprise that, with people feeling weeks of looming anxiety and unprecedented financial upheaval, cannabis consumption is up,” says Jackie Cornell, 1906’s Chief of Policy and Health Innovations.
Mental health professionals recognize a dozen different conditions related to anxiety, but one unique aspect of this current situation is that now pretty much everyone is worried about the exact same thing – not catching the disease. Then you’ve got the economic devastation, surging unemployment, chronic uncertainty, and the stress of self-isolation. Making matters worse, the social distancing that prevents COVID-19 from spreading further, also makes connecting with friends and your support network that much harder.
The good news is that there are several proven strategies for managing anxiety. Therapists suggest practical advice like keeping to a regular schedule, taking walks outside (when you can maintain six feet of social distance!), writing down your concerns, limiting the amount of news and social media you consume, and prioritizing a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet. Prescription medications help some people, too. But if you’re looking for a different option, there’s good reason to believe that mindful use of cannabis can serve as a beneficial tool to soothe worries and lift spirits.
HOW CANNABIS CAN HELP
In 2017, a survey of more than 9,000 Americans revealed that 47 percent believed cannabis could provide relief from anxiety, stress, and depression. But while it may be generally accepted that many people use cannabis to relieve stress, it’s been hard to prove.
“Very few published studies have looked into the effects of THC on stress, or at the effects of different levels of THC on stress,” says Emma Childs, associate professor of psychiatry in the University of Illinois College of Medicine. She authored a study in 2017 to examine the effects of cannabis on anxiety, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Participants received either a low dose (7.5 milligrams of THC), a moderate dose (12.5 milligrams of THC), or none. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was in each group. The subjects who received the low dose reported less stress after a psychosocial test than those given a placebo, and their stress levels dissipated faster after the test. Interestingly, the subjects who received the higher dose reported more stress.
“Studies like these — examining the effects of cannabis and its pharmacological constituents under controlled conditions — are extremely important, considering the widespread use of cannabis for both medical and non-medical purposes,” Childs wrote. “Unfortunately, significant regulatory obstacles make it extremely difficult to conduct this type of research — with the result that cannabis is now widely available for medical purposes with minimal scientific foundation.”
1906’s Cornell agrees. “We find ourselves in a catch-22. Clinicians throughout the country are hungry for meaningful research and analysis to explore mountains of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of cannabis use. Yet because of antiquated federal regulations that continue to list cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, securing the appropriate approvals and permits is laborious at best and close to impossible at worst,” she says. “As we explore the economic recovery from this pandemic recession, the federal government would be wise to allow for more research, thus creating more domestic jobs.”
The ideal balance of THC to CBD is also ripe for scientific examination. A 2015 study, published in Neurotherapeutics, concluded that “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations. Overall, existing preclinical evidence strongly supports the potential of CBD as a treatment for anxiety disorders.”
An article published on Leafly took a deep look at how to use cannabis to manage anxiety. It digs in to explaining the biological system cannabis primarily interacts with: the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and highlights a study that describes how the endocannabinoid system works to regulate the body’s responses to anxiety, fear, and stress.
More research is definitely needed, but cannabis has vast potential to manage anxiety.
If your current bout of anxiety is primarily impacting your sleep, consider 1906 Midnight. 1906’s best-selling product, Midnight is a highly targeted blend of sleep-inducing plant medicines and relaxing cannabis that promotes deeper and more restful sleep – without drowsy hangover effects. We put in exhaustive research to design this formulation because even in the best of times, sleep issues are one of the most prevalent health problems Americans face. If you’re one of them, please give it a try: we receive letters every week from people who have had their lives transformed by Midnight.
We’ve also received glowing testimonials about our ultimate mellow-out cocktail a.k.a. Chill. These dark milk-chocolate gems balance 5mg of single-strain THC with a full 25mg of CBD. We supplement the cannabis with thoughtful doses of two stress-reducing plant medicines well-known for their relaxing properties. These key ingredients include magnolia, which has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine for a calming effect, and L-theanine, an amino acid derived from green tea, which stimulates the brain’s alpha waves to promote serenity.
We suggest one dose of Chill as a way to dissipate the day’s stress and to help you settle into super-restorative downtime. Since Chill has only 5mg of THC, users can continue to be productive while shedding the stress of the day, or the month, or the season. And keep the faith: Better times lie ahead #whenthisisover.