If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you are all too familiar with the many ways it can manifest in your life. Do you sometimes find your heart racing, your body sweating and trembling, and your chest tightening? Do you have a hard time falling or staying asleep? Do you wake up with a sore jaw from grinding your teeth all night? These are all common symptoms of anxiety and can add to one’s stress, exacerbating anxiety disorders even further.(1)
In the last blog post in our series on Managing Anxiety with Cannabis, we discussed the importance of regularly immersing oneself in a state of flow—particularly for those with anxiety disorders—and how cannabis can be used to supplement and enhance activities that are scientifically known to induce this state. We talked about incorporating low THC, high CBD cannabis products into your daily routine for long-term results. But what about those pesky symptoms like panic attacks, muscle tension, and insomnia, all of which warrant immediate relief? These unpleasant side effects should not be discounted.
Fortunately, cannabis can also help with symptom management. Much of the difference in the approach to managing anxiety in the long-term—as discussed in Part #1— versus the short-term relates back to timing and method of consumption. The remainder of this series will focus on using cannabis alongside proven stress reduction techniques to manage several of the more acute symptoms of anxiety.
What is Timing?
Simply knowing the research about cannabis and anxiety is not enough; It is crucial to understand timing with cannabis products if they are to be effective for you. This is because finding your ideal dose involves achieving the desired effects when they are needed; not before, not after. Each of the various consumption methods differ in how your cannabis product is absorbed into the bloodstream, and these processes do not all occur at the same rate. The amount of time it takes for effects to be felt after consumption—the onset time—and the length of time those effects last both vary across categories. When trying a new product, the best way to ensure that you have a positive experience is to always start with the minimum recommended dosage and wait the full amount of time for onset to occur before taking another.
Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by recurrent panic attacks. The National Institute of Mental Health describes panic attacks as “sudden periods of intense fear” brought about either unexpectedly or by some sort of trigger, such as being on a tall bridge when you are afraid of heights. Due to the rapid speed in which a panic attack progresses, it is important to take steps right when symptoms begin to develop so you can refocus your thoughts before they start spinning out of control. Common symptoms can include rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking or trembling, and/or an overwhelming sense of impending doom(2)—all signs that your fight-or-flight response is operating at maximum capacity.
Acting swiftly is critical when it comes to curbing panic attacks, which is why you would want to find an intervention that takes effect as quickly as possible. If panic attacks are a frequent part of your life, sensing even the slightest increase in heart rate or the tiniest bead of sweat can set off a parasympathetic response. By that point, any intervention becomes exponentially more difficult, if not impossible to implement. Many sufferers of panic disorders know that oftentimes the only solution in situations such as these is to find a safe space to wait until the stress response cycle has run its course. By themselves, deep breathing and grounding exercises might not be enough to cut it when you are in the throes of a panic attack.
In these types of situations, benzodiazepines and other medications may provide immediate relief, but they can also present a host of side effects that some individuals find intolerable. The implications for taking certain anti-anxiety medications can be serious and include risk of addiction or even death by overdose.
By contrast, cannabis is generally well-tolerated and has never been attributed to a cause of death.(3) In light of these concerns, cannabis can be an attractive alternative for quelling panic attacks when used alongside traditional stress-reduction techniques. With that being said, you should always consult with your doctor before combining medications. Every body is different, and what works best for one person may not for another.
Panic attacks progress quickly, meaning that an equally quick intervention is needed. Inhalation methods such as smoking or vaping are particularly suited for these types of situations. In comparison with other consumption methods, inhalation offers the shortest onset time of 1-5 minutes. Vape pens, in particular, are an excellent option for individuals on the go, as they are discreet and generally easier to use and dose. You don’t have to worry about grinding up your flower, finding a lighter, and loading it into your smoking device, steps that can provide for a leisurely experience but are not ideal for situations mandating immediacy. Whichever route you choose, just be sure to wait at least 15 minutes before taking another dose.(4)
One excellent product to try for its immediate anxiety-easing effects is Care By Design’s 1:1 CBD:THC vape cartridge. The slight amount of THC in one dose works to induce relaxation of both mind and body, while the equal amount of CBD works to impart its anxiety-easing effects(5). If you start to experience the signs of an impending panic attack, simply start by drawing a dose from your pen. Within the next several minutes, you may find that you are able to take slightly deeper breaths; the racing thoughts begin to slow and your awareness is brought outside of the mind and onto your body and surroundings. If you are still hesitant to experience the mind-altering effects of THC, Care By Design also offers vape cartridges with higher amounts of CBD and smaller amounts of THC, including ratios of 2:1 or 4:1 CBD:THC. Again, every body is different and some amount of personal experimentation is necessary to find a product that works best for you.
If inhalation methods are not an option to you, another fast-acting option for quelling anxiety quickly includes mints. The key to consuming mints is to hold them under the tongue until they are fully dissolved. Mints, lozenges, gum, and other similar products (including tinctures) are absorbed sublingually, meaning the beneficial plant compounds enter the bloodstream under the tongue as opposed to through the digestive tract. As a result, the onset time for sublingual products is typically around 15 to 30 minutes—much faster than that of edibles, which can take up to two hours.
Good Mints 1:1 CBD:THC Medley are a fast and discreet way to get relief when and where you need it. If, for example, you feel your heart begin to race, hold one of these mints in your mouth; take a moment to notice the minty flavor and take a couple of deep breaths. Using taste as a means to bring your attention to your immediate surroundings allows you to momentarily transcend self-awareness and is one technique for grounding yourself in the present, which goes to show the synergistic ways that cannabis can be used to enhance traditional stress management techniques.
In Part #3 of our series on Managing Anxiety with Cannabis, I will talk more about timing your cannabis consumption when using it to address symptoms such as insomnia and muscle tension. Remember, regular practice and experimentation is needed in order to yield results and find remedies that work best for you. Fortunately, as an essential business Torrey Holistics will be there for you every step of the way. Until next time, stay well.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Nothing said, done, typed, printed or reproduced by Torrey Holistics is intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or take the place of a licensed physician.
(1,2) The National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Anxiety Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml#part_145333. Accessed 24 April 2020.
(3,4) MacCallum, C.A., European Journal of Internal Medicine (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejim.2018.01.004
(5) Ruehle, S et al. “The endocannabinoid system in anxiety, fear memory and habituation.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 26,1 (2012): 23-39. doi:10.1177/0269881111408958