Start Low and Go Slow and Other Tips for Treating Stress with Cannabis

Cannabis and relaxation and stress relief – the data

A 2017 survey by New Frontier Data found that more than half – 55 percent – of cannabis-consuming respondents indicated the number one reason for using cannabis was for relaxation; another 40 percent said to relieve stress.

Later that year Van der Pop, a cannabis life-style brand for women, found that relaxation and stress relief were the second and third most cited reasons why women consumed cannabis – behind pain relief.

Best cannabis dosage for anxiety

About 450 patients who participated in a 2016 survey from Hello MD indicated they use cannabis to reduce stress (just a tick below pain, while about 650 patients said using cannabis reduced their anxiety); while a 2014 study published in the Hawai’i Journal of Public Health found half of Hawaiian cannabis patients reported stress and anxiety relief after using cannabis.

However, some former and current cannabis users describe opposite effects – increased feelings of anxiety and stress, likely caused by high doses. A 2017 National Institutes of Health-backed study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago concluded that “a low dose of THC (7.5 milligrams) produces subjective stress-relieving effects in line with those commonly reported among cannabis users, but that higher doses (12.5 milligrams) may non-specifically increase negative mood.”

What about CBD?

An April study by Washington State University researchers took this a step further, introducing CBD. The WSU team found that one puff of cannabis rich in CBD and low in THC was ideal for reducing depression symptoms; while two puffs of any type of cannabis was adequate to reduce anxiety symptoms; while 10 or more puffs of cannabis high in both CBD (11 percent) and THC (25.6 percent) produced the largest stress reduction.

Tips for Microdosing for Relaxation and Stress Relief

So, based on the available evidence, it appears there are two options to relax or relieve stress with cannabis: low-THC products and products rich with both THC and CBD – and for new users, using low-THC products (known as microdosing) is likely the way to go.

There are ways to microdose by smoking – taking small puffs throughout the day; however, edibles are a sure way to meter your doses. Most cannabis-legal states require edible products to be accurately labeled and most dispensaries will carry edible products as low as 5 milligrams of THC a serving, ranging from candies, to baked goods, to drinks, to honey sticks. Some vape pen products boast consistent THC doses as low as 2 milligrams.

THC or CBD for anxiety and stress?

For those that would prefer smoking, there are plenty of strains high in CBD and low in THC available – some with less than 1 percent THC and CBD levels higher than 12 percent, which falls in line with the doses outlined by the Chicago researchers.

Topicals, which are usually high in CBD and low in THC, are another way one can relax and relieve physical tension caused by stress.

Oh, and chronic cannabis users have ‘blunted stress reactivity’

Meaning, essentially, people who use cannabis often are less stressed than their non-consuming counterparts, according to a 2017 study by Washington State University researchers in which 40 cannabis users and 42 non-users were asked to complete stress tests.

“Subjective stress ratings and cortisol levels were significantly higher in non-users in the stress condition relative to non-users in the no stress condition,” the researchers noted. “In contrast, cannabis users demonstrated blunted stress reactivity; specifically, they showed no increase in cortisol and a significantly smaller increase in subjective stress ratings.”

Just remember to start low and go slow.

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