Medical Marijuana to Treat Anxiety in Florida
Using Medical Marijuana for Anxiety
Everyone experiences stress and sadness at some point, and that is part of life. However, when that stress evolves into something chronic and life-altering, it is known as "anxiety." According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is an "emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure." They also mention that people suffering from this disorder sometimes experience disconcerting symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. Anxiety is often accompanied by other psychiatric conditions, such as depression.
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When these symptoms become debilitating, patients often seek medical treatment. There are a variety of treatments for anxiety. For some people, simply receiving counseling sessions is enough. For moderate to severe versions of the disorder, patients often require some form of medication. The most common form of treatment is the use of benzodiazepines. These drugs work on the brain's GABA receptors and are usually calming. However, benzodiazepines are known for their high addiction potential and side effect profiles.
Because of this, many patients are looking for alternative solutions. The majority of states, including Florida, have implemented medical marijuana programs (also referred to as "medical cannabis" in some states). While qualifying conditions vary by state, many states, such as Florida, may allow physicians to write a certification stating that a patient suffering from anxiety may benefit from marijuana.
So, how does cannabis work in treating this life-changing disorder? While there are hundreds of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, the two primary cannabinoids are "cannabidiol" or "CBD" and "tetrahydrocannabinol" or "THC". They both occur naturally and work in a synergistic manner. Many medical cannabis products are extracts that contain one or both of these compounds.
About Medical CBD
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, CBD is less psychoactive than THC. It does not provide the user with any type of "high" and has not been found to have any addiction potential. CBD has been found to be helpful with many conditions, including anxiety. As a matter of fact, there is now a standard pharmaceutical approved by the FDA for epilepsy that is solely an extract of this cannabinoid.
CBD has been found to have many health-promoting properties. It is "neuroprotective", which essentially means that it helps protect your brain. It also may help prevent seizures caused by some types of epilepsy. Some people have reported that it helps prevent migraines, and it is sometimes used as an antipsychotic.
About Medical THC
A study by the National Institutes of Health sheds an interesting light on THC. The study requested that people who use cannabis to treat their anxiety rate the effectiveness of various cannabis strains. Note that this was flowered cannabis, not oils or extracts.
CBD has traditionally been seen as an anxiolytic cannabinoid, whereas isolated THC has traditionally been associated with causing worrying or paranoia. However, the results of this study showed that a higher THC to CBD ratio did not actually cause an increase in patients' symptoms.
Patients were given a variety of strains with varying terpenes and asked to rate how effective they were in treating their anxiety. The most effective strains tended to have higher THC contents and lower CBD contents, while the least effective strains tended to have much more CBD and less THC. The causes of these subjective effects are not entirely known.
In short, THC appears to benefit people suffering from this disorder as long as it is accompanied by other constituents that occur naturally in marijuana.
Forms of Medical Marijuana
There are multiple forms of marijuana that can be used for medical purposes. In order to legally obtain them, you will need to have an ID card stating that you have received a certification from a licensed doctor that you may benefit from them.
You would go to a dispensary and show your ID card. You then have many choices in terms of the form in which you purchase marijuana, including flower, hash oil or "concentrates", tinctures, and edibles.
Of course, the study mentioned above is on "flower", or regular smoked marijuana plant. You will be able to see the cannabinoid ratios and percentages on each strain before you purchase it. If you are purchasing regular flower to smoke it, it appears that you may benefit more from higher THC strains.
Another option is oil. This is commonly in "vape pens" and is a very concentrated form of cannabis. This can be a "full spectrum extract", which means that all cannabinoids were preserved, or it can be selected cannabinoids that have been isolated. Ensure that you know what type of extraction method was used before purchasing. Your physician will be able to discuss the type of oil that you may benefit the most from.
Tinctures are very similar to oils. However, rather than smoke them, you either "drink" a small bit of them or use them as a sublingual (put them under your tongue). They usually come in droppers. These share the same properties and risks that oils do, so ask your doctor before using any of them.
"Edibles" are forms of medical cannabis that can be eaten. Interestingly, since these are metabolized unlike smoked marijuana, they are effectively a different drug. The National Institutes of Health also did a study on edibles, located here.
Special caution should be exercised when using these. A physician should advise you on the dosage to take. The intoxicating effects, according to the study, usually take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours to take effect. Many first-time users take an appropriate dose, then realize that it is not helping with their symptoms, and take more. Then, the full effect of taking multiple doses hits, causing the user to experience undesirable effects such as paranoia.
If the user is not careful, he or she could overdose on edibles easily, since a "dose" is typically a very small piece of a candy, etc. It's important to note that there has never been a fatal case of a cannabis overdose, but it can cause disconcerting effects. Again, it is extremely important to begin with very small amounts of edibles and gradually work your way up. Remember, you can always take more, but you can't undo taking too much!
Only you and your Florida physician can determine what type of medical marijuana will work for your condition. This is why it is crucial to get a medical evaluation and certification from a licensed doctor. He or she can walk you through the ins and outs of cannabinoids and how you will likely react to different mixtures or ratios of them.
It may take a few tries, but once you find the right treatment regimen, you may be surprised at the results. Rather than dealing with all the side effects (and usually higher cost) of traditional pharmaceuticals, you now have the chance to legally and safely try marijuana and see it if causes your symptoms to partially or fully dissipate. All you need to do is get an evaluation by a doctor, talk about your options, then, if approved, get your ID card!