Marijuana and Anxiety

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

Marijuana and Anxiety

There can be no doubt that some people feel profoundly relaxed in both their body and mind after smoking marijuana. Marijuana can definitely reduce anxiety for some people. What is more, there are clearly people who can function well, extremely well, while high on marijuana. For example, just look at rock musicians who smoke marijuana and then go perform while they are high. Even making love can be more enjoyable and liberated while you are high on marijuana.

Does this mean that marijuana is a good treatment for anxiety and anxiety disorders? Or can the regular use of marijuana actually be a cause of anxiety? Let’s take a scientific look at these questions and see if we can find answers to them. First we will take a look at research that suggests that marijuana has a positive psychological effect. Then we will take a look at the data that shows that marijuana has negative psychological effects.

What we will find in essence is that marijuana has both negative and positive psychological effects. Some people are helped by marijuana, and some are harmed. Some people experience a reduction of their anxiety after smoking marijuana, and some people have increased anxiety. Some people have no psychiatric problems as a result of smoking marijuana, and some people do.

The Positive Effects of Marijuana

“Acute marijuana intoxication is generally associated with euphoria, subjective quickening of associations, relaxation, decreased motor activity, a sense of calm, increased awareness of sensory experience and internal sensations of the body, transient sensory experiences, synesthesia, craving sweet and salty foods, enhanced perception of current activities, increased salience of stimuli, simultaneous focus on multiple things, impaired shifting of focus, fantasies of power, and belief of having arrived at a transcendent insight.”, These are the findings of an American Psychiatric Association study of the psychological effects of marijuana. This report also noted that marijuana can also have negative effects as well.

In general, it is well known that many people make recreational use of marijuana because it makes them feel good. Marijuana is the most widely used recreational drug in the world. People note that smoking marijuana makes them feel calm and less anxious. Indeed, this is why people smoke marijuana, but as we’ll be seeing in the next section, marijuana can have negative effects as well for some people.

The Negative Effects of Marijuana

The American Psychiatric Association study that describes the positive effects of marijuana also found that marijuana intoxication is associated with deficits in processing speed, attention, working memory, decision-making, motivation, time-perception, and reality testing.,

Many studies have shown that marijuana use increases anxiety. Studies have shown that marijuana use can cause both immediate and long term anxiety.

Several studies have shown that cannabis inhalation can cause immediate anxiety that only lasts for a short period of time in people who are not habitual users. They smoke the marijuana, feel anxious for awhile, and then the anxiety disappears as the effects of the marijuana wear off. About 20-30% of smokers experience acute anxiety when they smoke marijuana. This occurs most frequently when the drug is used at high doses, and among people who have not smoked marijuana before and among people who smoke marijuana in a stressful environment.

Marijuana also has long term effects on anxiety. For example, one study found that people who use cannabis regularly have higher levels of anxiety than people who do not use cannabis. This study of people who had been smoking marijuana for 10 or more years found that 21% of them has high levels of anxiety. However, notice that 79% of the people in this study did not report increased anxiety, and the authors concluded that long term users typically report a reduction in anxiety.

It is important to note that all experts in the field say the research done to date does not make it possible to determine whether cannabis use causes anxiety or whether people who have anxiety take to using cannabis to reduce their anxiety. More research will have to be done to determine what cause what.

There have also been reports that marijuana inhalation is associated with an increased prevalence of panic attacks. However, as of yet there do not appear to be any other reports that show that marijuana does can in general cause an increased risk of anxiety disorders.

A Good Study That Shows No Association Between Cannabis and Anxiety

Finally, in the midst of all the studies that claim that marijuana has either negative or positive effects, there is one very good French study of regular users of marijuana that found that there is no significant association between the level of state anxiety and cannabis use in daily life.

The same study also found no evidence for either an anxiolytic or anxiogenic effect of cannabis in daily life. In other words, they found no evidence that marijuana use reduces or increases anxiety in people who regularly smoke marijuana.

The Paradoxical Effect of Marijuana

Given that marijuana is the most widely used recreational drug in the world, and given that the studies that document the anxiety causing effects of marijuana show that 70-80% of the people who smoke marijuana do not experience acute or chronic anxiety, we have to conclude that marijuana has a paradoxical effect. It is safe for many people, even the majority of people who use it. But scientific studies are also showing that it is harmful for a substantial minority of the people who smoke marijuana.

21% of longtime marijuana smokers have increased anxiety levels, but 79% of long time smokers do not.


Is it safe to smoke marijuana? Can smoking marijuana help you reduce your normal anxiety? Will smoking marijuana make you become chronically anxious?

The answer is that it is different for different people. Some people find that marijuana reduces their anxiety level and increase their joy and creativity. Other people experience increased anxiety as a result of smoking marijuana. The key thing to do is to figure out which type of person you are. If

This means that for some people it is better to either stop smoking marijuana or not smoke it at all. If you are smoking marijuana, a good idea to be honest with yourself and keep an eye out for signs that the marijuana is bad for you. Here are reasons to be careful and stop smoking marijuana:

  • 1. If you experience an acute, or immediate, rise in anxiety while smoking marijuana, and if that happens to you a number of times, don’t smoke marijuana.
  • 2. If you are smoking marijuana a lot, and if find yourself becoming chronically anxious, stop smoking.
  • 3. If you find yourself having panic attacks, do not smoke marijuana.
  • 4. Finally, if you are smoking marijuana a lot and find that you are losing your desire to go out and accomplish things in the world, stop smoking.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Finally, research is beginning to indicate, that cannabidiol, which is another chemical that is found in cannabis, might have be a useful medication for anxiety. Cannabidiol does not get a person high, i.e cause intoxication. However, scientific studies are showing that it does have robust anxiety reducing effects in the short term. More studies will have to be done, however, to determine whether or not cannabidiol is safe and/or effective for long term use.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have a specific question that this article didn’t answered? Send us a message and we’ll answer it for you!

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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