Marijuana companies and users proclaim the drugs utility as a treatment but hard evidence is more difficult to come by
Many cannabis users and businesses are invested in the idea of cannabis as an anxiety treatment. The position invites skepticism: marijuana companies have a financial interest in promoting a maximalist view of the drugs benefits, and in patients it can look like a rationalization for excessive use.
As with other health conditions, the available research is inconclusive and limited due to decades-old restrictions on medical marijuana research. To sort through some of the ambiguities surrounding cannabis and anxiety, I spoke to Jordan Tishler, a Boston-area doctor who has a cannabis-focused practice.
One of the first things to keep in mind, he said, was the difference between anxiety and stress. Stress is a response to difficult situations such as a sub-optimal job or difficulty in ones personal relationships. Many people who think of themselves as self-medicating for anxiety are actually self-medicating for stress. While this may be OK in the same context as an after-work cocktail, it may also enable users to avoid taking necessary steps to improve their lives.
Anxiety, Tishler said, referred more to a disorder when feelings of worry or distress arise for no specific reason. Fewer people take medical marijuana for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than stress, and the research about whether it works is all over the map.
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