29 Aug Why Marijuana Compounds Could Eventually Replace Anti-Anxiety Meds
The recent study focused on marijuana’s potency in reducing the stress response in regular users. Stress was measured by tracking cortisol amounts in study participants’ saliva. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a reliable indicator of stress; higher or lower amounts correlate closely with a person’s response to stressful situations.
The study compared the stress responses of a group of daily marijuana users to a group of non-users. The results were consistent: regular users had a “blunted” response to acute stress. In effect, their internal stress engines had been tuned down by regular exposure to marijuana.
The comment that this result is too preliminary to be called “a good or a bad thing” is well-taken (tuning down the stress response too much is likely to have both negatives and positives), but it does point to the potential for harnessing a modified version of this effect down the road.
Benzodiazepines, the mostly commonly used prescription anxiety meds, also affect GABA levels. The meds are effective at quickly delivering what users are seeking – an anxiety extinguishing calmness.
But that benefit comes at a cost. Tolerance to benzodiazepines, including Xanax and Klonopin, builds rapidly, requiring a user to take more and more of the meds to get the same effect. It doesn’t take long to develop a dependency that may not end. Instead of going through the well-documented hell of getting off the meds, many users choose to stay on them indefinitely. In addition, benzo side effects—fatigue, disorientation and mental fogginess, among others—are notoriously difficult to manage while trying to make it through the day. Overdose potential for benzos is also high, accounting for thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year.
While preliminary, the latest research suggests that the compounds in marijuana could eventually be harnessed to deliver anxiety relief with decreased dependency, fewer side effects and less overdose potential.
The early signs are promising, but this, like all possibilities for future medical uses of marijuana compounds, depends on the research continuing.
The latest study was published in journal Psychopharmacology