If you’ve ever found yourself in the paradoxical grip of a cannabis-induced anxiety attack keep reading – you’re not alone! You’ll enjoy our deep dive into the delicate balance between the euphoric and anxiety-inducing effects of cannabis and what to do about it.
What are the Symptoms of Paranoia?
Paranoia is a mental state that causes people to feel threatened externally, even if the reasoning isn’t grounded in reality. The symptoms include but aren’t limited to:
Inability to relax;
Hostility, aggressive, argumentative;
Inability to trust others;
Feeling like outcomes in life are controlled by external factors;
Failure to compromise;
Finding hidden meanings in the behavior of others;
While paranoia is a natural defense mechanism, heightened states of the condition are not healthy. As a result, experiencing paranoia after consuming cannabis is far from the goal of an elevated state of consciousness we aspire to achieve.
The Link Between Cannabis and Paranoia
An Oxford-led research group funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) administered a study that identified THC as the driving force between cannabis’ link to paranoia. The researchers used a pure THC injection free of all other cannabis components and a placebo control on 121 participants and observed the effects.
Ninety minutes after the THC injection, over half of the study’s participants reported an increase in paranoid thoughts, and once the compound left their bloodstream, these feelings declined. Other psychological effects included “anxiety, worry, lowered mood, negative thoughts about the self; various changes in perception such as sounds being louder than normal and colours brighter; thoughts echoing; altered perception of time, and poorer short-term memory.”
It’s far from a revelation that many cannabis users experience paranoia or anxiety, especially in high doses. However, the cause is more complicated, and managing negative symptoms requires an understanding of the chemical composition of cannabis and how it interacts with our endocannabinoid system.
The Entourage Effect and Cannabis Anxiety
THC dominates the cannabis conversation due to its psychoactive effects but is far from the only compound produced by the incredibly diverse plant. Cannabis consists of:
Cannabinoids – Over 100 chemical compounds such as CBD, CBG, and CBC;
Terpenes – natural aromatic plant oils (limonene, pinene, linalool, and over 150 more found in cannabis);
Flavonoids – polyphenolic compounds found in fruits and vegetables, with some unique to cannabis, have antioxidant properties.
When cannabis compounds are consumed in synergy, the phenomenon is known as the “entourage effect.” While there is limited research to support the idea, the hypothesis states that the ratio of THC to all other entourage components determines whether a specific strain of cannabis increases anxiety. For example, the participants of the Oxford-led study consumed pure THC and didn’t experience the “entourage effect” due to the lack of chemical diversity in the extract.
In most cases, the higher the THC content, the more anxiety you may experience because it dominates the other compounds required for a healthy entourage effect.
Fortunately, the effects of a strain with a high THC ratio can be manipulated through the addition of other natural compounds.
Cannabis Strains and Entourage Effects
Chemical composition is the driving force determining the effects of various cannabis strains. If you’ve smoked more than one cultivar, you already know that the high can be drastically different. This is because the concentrations of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids vary.
So, the ratio of THC to other cannabis compounds is what drives the adverse side effects such as anxiety, then yes, some strains will have more balanced effects.
There are two primary types of cannabis: sativa and indica.
Let’s look at each category to see what you can expect chemically from each.
What is Sativa?
Sativa is typically found in warm, dry climates like Southeast Asia, Central America, Africa, and Western Asia. Sativa plants are tall and can grow over 6 feet.
This strain’s minor cannabinoids to THC ratio is lower than in other strains. In most cases, it has a higher concentration of THC per dose.
Some common strains that contain sativa include:
Many cannabis consumers enjoy the mind high of sativa strains, but these strains are more likely to cause anxiety or paranoia than some other strains.
What is Indica?
Indica is native to Turkey, Pakistan, and India and prefers the dry climate of the Hindu Kush mountains. It is a much shorter plant with bushy greenery, but it grows more quickly than sativa cannabis.
Some common strains of indica include:
Indica strains have a higher ratio of minor cannabinoids to THC than sativa strains, creating a more balanced entourage effect we discussed above. For this reason, most consumers use it to relax and reduce symptoms like pain and nausea. Most people consume this strain in the evening time.
What Affects How Strains Make You Feel?
While we are far from fully understanding cannabinoids, minor cannabinoids, including CBN, CBC, and CBG, are believed to have an impact on the overall cannabis experience. CBN, for example, is associated with neurological conditions. CBG is believed to reduce anxiety and symptoms of OCD, PTSD, and depression.
Terpenes also influence your experience with cannabis. Strains high in Caryophyllene, Myrcene, Pinene, Linalool, and Limonene, for example, are excellent for reducing your anxiety levels.
Indica Vs. Sativa: Which is Better for Anxiety?
As a rule of thumb, sativa is a more energizing cannabis strain, while indica is much more calming and relaxing.
However, individual plants can produce different chemical compounds, even with the same base strain, and environmental factors such as growing conditions, nutrients, and storage can also have a big effect. So, you can have the same indica strain, but due to how its grown, the chemical composition will be different.
Take the terpene myrcene, for example. It’s the most common cannabis terpene, and if it is present in a strain in a volume greater than 0.5%, the strain is considered an indica. But if under 0.5%, the strain will deliver more sativa-like effects.
Cannabinoids and terpenes work together to create a practical experience for the user.
So, when you’re looking at strains, we recommend checking whether it is an indica or sativa, then look at the terpene and minor cannabinoid concentration to weigh the risk of anxiety or paranoia.
In general, indica is the best choice if you want to avoid a panic attack while high.
Is There a Product that Reduces the Anxious Effects of Cannabis?
Earlier, we mentioned the positive effects CBG has on cannabis consumption.
If you’re someone who struggles with paranoia and anxiety during consumption, it’s in your best interest to try strains with high concentrations of CBG, although it may be difficult to find ones with enough CBG.
Conversely, you can infuse a product designed with high CBG into your flower.
Adding CBG to your high-THC cannabis will balance the effects, producing a more synergetic high and ultimately reducing anxiety and paranoia. We’ve done that with our Bud Love Premium Herbal mixers that contain 15% CBG, and have found that it helps many cannabis consumers enjoy their bud without side effects. Learn more about our private study on CBG’s influence on cannabis users over on our “learn” page.
––This article comes to you from the Bud Love team.