The long held opinion by some that smoking cannabis can reduce anxiety has, in a way, been both proved and disproved. Short term smoking of the controversial drug can help to reduce anxiety, but long term use can increase anxiety, according to a study from the USA.
Published in the journal Neuron, Dr. Sachin Patel carried out a study that found that the brain makes its own ‘endocannabinoids’ which regulate anxiety by dampening certain nerve signals. When this endocannabinoid system fails, it can cause stress and anxiety in people.
Marijuana contains cannabinoids that can replicate this system and affect certain receptors in the brain and reduce anxiety.
However, the drug reduces the efficiency of the receptors over time, paradoxically causing anxiety in the smoker when they are not intoxicated by the drug. Furthermore, it will require higher and higher subsequent doses of marijuana to achieve the same effect.
Unfortunately, this can trigger a cycle in which people become more and more dependent on the drug and become addicted to it, requiring consecutive doses to stop them feeling anxious.
Dr Patel said “Now we can see how that system is affected by… stress and chronic use [of marijuana], it might fundamentally change our understanding of cellular communication in the [brain].”