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Can Cannabis Help Manage Stress?

By Danyal Swan July 9, 2024
Medically Reviewed by Ciera Cammilleri

It has been known for years that the cannabinoid compounds like THC and CBD in cannabis act upon the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the body via the endocannabinoid system. The real question involves whether these interactions  lead to beneficial medicinal effects. In particular, do cannabis studies indicate that cannabis helps with stress? Could cannabis use provide individuals struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression a more natural way to combat the causes and symptoms of these mental conditions? 

Cannabis and Stress Relief

Recent studies have focused on examining how cannabis combats stress, anxiety, and depression. These studies focus on providing a variety of cannabis strains in different quantities. As mentioned, researchers focused on identifying the balance of CBD and THC, the strain, and the best method of consumption.

These recent studies were unique in that many focused on inhaled cannabis versus other forms of cannabis consumption. In the past, research has primarily focused on orally administered THC pills, taken in a controlled laboratory setting. However, the recent study allowed medical cannabis patients to inhale their cannabis within the comfort of their own homes, then report back to researchers regarding their experiences.

Cannabis and Stress Study Results

Cannabis and Stress Study Results
Mid adult male scientist reading scientific data in a laboratory.

While there are multiple ongoing studies being conducted concerning stress and cannabis use, Washington State University has recently published results showing beneficial correlations between cannabis use and lower stress levels. This study focused heavily on the various dosage amounts administered to attenuate stress, anxiety, and depression. The WSU study surveyed 1,399 medical cannabis users through a study app, using more than 18,392 tracked entries to solidify their results.

Researchers discovered that medicinal users who took one puff of cannabis that was high in CBD but low in THC experienced a reduction in symptoms of depression and stress. Two puffs helped to further reduce the symptoms of anxiety. It is important to note that this study also noted that 10 or more puffs could result in adverse situations where the individual found themselves a bit more stressed or anxious than they had been prior to use.

The WSU study indicated that, when it comes to depression, the greatest reduction of depression symptoms occurred with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD. When it comes to anxiety, the study indicated that the results weren’t greatly impacted by raising, lowering, or keeping THC and CBD at the same level. When it comes to stress, the study indicated that stress was best reduced after using cannabis with high levels of both THC and CBD. Other dosage combinations didn’t provide the same significant changes in symptoms.

It is important to note that patient tolerance can play a major role in these studies, which is a hurdle that researchers continue to address. For example, some individuals may require higher doses of THC or CBD to experience the same effects as another person who was newer to cannabis use or naturally responded to lower doses. Future research will continue to explore better ways to compensate for these differences.

Does Cannabis Really Relieve Stress?

If you’ve ever taken a hit of a vape or flower or used an edible containing THC or CBD after a long, stressful day, you know how relaxing the process can be. However, some argue that the ritual is just as involved in the reduction of stress as the cannabinoids themselves. Research is ongoing to determine whether cannabis is ideal for long-term stress relief.

With that in mind, current studies like the one conducted by WSU show hope for the future. The study revealed that stress reduction was experienced 93.3% of the time over tracked sessions that fell within the study's guidelines regarding method of use, dose, and report time.

Physical Pain and Stress

Stress can be caused by many factors, but physical pain ranks high on that list. In fact, there is a definite scientific connection between physical pain and stress. Stress and pain appear to go hand-in-hand, and further mental health problems can develop when individuals experience chronic or lasting pain. When a person is in pain, the pain is always in the forefront of their mind, resulting in stress. Pain can also cause a person to feel they are missing out on regular daily activities that many take for granted.

When an individual has been unsuccessful finding a way to manage pain, it can take a significant emotional toll. In addition to mental anguish, stress associated with pain can increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause further inflammation—thus creating a wicked cycle. That’s why proper pain management, which can include medication, attention to quality sleep, and finding ways to relax whenever possible, can help mitigate pain, lower stress, and decrease your risk of ongoing pain. Cannabis may be a welcome addition to pain management techniques for many people experiencing pain.

Cannabis for pain relief

Cannabis studies have demonstrated that cannabis may work to reduce pain, especially pain caused by inflammation; for this reason, many individuals with arthritis turn to cannabis to reduce their inflammation and pain symptoms. While more research is underway, many of these patients reported that pain relief associated with the use of cannabis has allowed them to return to enjoying regular daily activities. In turn, this return to normalcy, increased physical activity, and relief from constant pain helps to reduce stress levels. Many individuals reported that cannabis helped them get a full night’s rest. In this way, medicinal cannabis can help alleviate symptoms caused by both internal and external sources of stress.

Cannabis for Stress Relief

Science continues to help us better understand the range of beneficial medical therapeutic benefits cannabis can provide. As shown in the WSU study above, the results are promising when it comes to cannabis and stress relief. For many, cannabis provides the best natural alternative for medicinal mental health management in the face of high stress, anxiety, and depression.

References :

  1. Kendall, D. & Yudowski, G., (2017). Cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system: Their signaling and roles in disease. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience: Cellular Neurophysiology, 10, 1662-5102.
  2. Zeyl, V., Sawyer, K., & Wightman, R. S. (2020). What do you know about Maryjane? A systematic review of the current data on the THC: CBD ratio. Substance Use & Misuse, 55(8), 1223-1227.
  3. Stith, S.S., Li, X., Diviant, J.P. et al. The effectiveness of inhaled Cannabis flower for the treatment of agitation/irritability, anxiety, and common stress. J Cannabis Res 2, 47 (2020).
  4. Babson, K. A., Ramo, D. E., Baldini, L., Vandrey, R., & Bonn-Miller, M. O. (2015). Mobile app-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia: feasibility and initial efficacy among veterans with cannabis use disorders. JMIR research protocols, 4(3), e3852.
  5. Santesteban Echarri, O., Kim, G., Haffey, P., Tang, J., & Addington, J. (2021). Looseleaf, a mobile-based application to monitor cannabis use and cannabis-related experiences for youth at clinical high-risk for psychosis: Development and user acceptance testing. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 37(6), 501-511.
  6. Cuttler, Carrie & Spradlin, Alexander & Mclaughlin, Ryan. (2018). A Naturalistic Examination of the Perceived Effects of Cannabis on Negative Affect. Journal of Affective Disorders. 235.
  7. Colizzi, M., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2018). Cannabis use and the development of tolerance: a systematic review of human evidence. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 93, 1-25.
  8. Abdallah, C. G., & Geha, P. (2017). Chronic Pain and Chronic Stress: Two Sides of the Same Coin?. Chronic stress (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), 1, 2470547017704763.
  9. Perrot, S., & Trouvin, A. P. (2019). Cannabis for musculoskeletal pain and arthritis: evidence is needed. Joint Bone Spine, 86(1), 1-3.

Digital Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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