Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety— and I used to be one of them.
After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my mid-20s, I found myself facing a long road of treatment. I had no idea what to expect, and as you can imagine, I felt pretty darn anxious about the whole situation.
I started chemotherapy and was prescribed a cocktail of pills to help calm the side effects. On top of that, I was given anti-anxiety medication to help ease my mind.
Over time, however, after realizing all these pills were only causing even more side effects, I replaced a majority of them with self-prescribed medical marijuana, or MMJ.
Almost immediately, this so-called illicit drug began providing medicinal benefits I simply wasn’t seeing from my pharmaceuticals. I regained my appetite, my palms stopped sweating, I no longer had the hiccups all the time, and best of all, my anxiety melted away.
Take the Natural Route.
Marijuana is a very misunderstood plant — mainly because most of the research conducted about it pertains to its recreational use.
Those who use marijuana recreationally are looking to get high and have fun, not necessarily treat an illness. So, naturally, the plant is mostly recognized for its intoxicating effects and gets labeled as something that will only exacerbate our anxiety and make us feel paranoid.
Much of marijuana’s medicinal value is still flying under the radar. Not a whole lot of people realize it’s possible to ingest MMJ and not feel intoxicated at all yet still reap medicinal benefits. High-cannabidiol strains in particular are known for relieving pain, reducing anxiety, and inducing feelings of relaxation — all while allowing us to maintain our motor skills and not feel loopy.
When compared with pharmaceuticals, taking a natural path to anxiety relief brings clear benefits:
1. Fewer Side Effects.
Traditionally, anxiety is treated with quick-fix benzodiazepines like Xanax — which happens to be the most-prescribed psychiatric medication in the U.S. Patients can pop these pills on an as-needed basis, and within a few minutes, they begin masking the symptoms of anxiety.
Unfortunately, benzos cause side effects such as drowsiness, insomnia, memory problems, poor coordination, slurred speech and irritability. None of these extra issues is worth the couple of hours of relief.
MMJ causes far fewer side effects — and as illustrated by my story, it can actually help us overcome side effects we’re experiencing from other medications.
2. Less Addiction.
In addition to their many side effects, benzodiazepines pose a major addiction risk. MMJ, on the other hand, is not considered to be physically addictive. If a daily user were to suddenly stop taking his or her medicine, there would be no real noticeable withdrawal symptoms to speak of.
In fact, some doctors are even using MMJ to wean patients off deadly pharmaceuticals — and they’ve reported more than a 75 percent success rate.
3. Higher Quality of Life.
All aspects of life are more enjoyable when we can control our anxiety, especially though natural means.
A great thing about MMJ is that it’s highly versatile. Based on our personal preferences, we can choose to smoke, eat or topically apply our medicine. Further, many different strains and dosages are available to choose from, all with differing ratios of active ingredients that produce different effects.
Instead of numbing us to the outside world, MMJ opens our perception and brings levity to our daily functions. One study even found it lowers our responses to negative stimuli, which is an important step in fighting depression.
While all this information is great, it doesn’t mean we can just smoke a joint and forget all our problems. It’s important to work closely with a physician and MMJ dispensary to determine the right strains for us.
Those suffering from anxiety should also undergo regular cognitive behavioral therapy sessions that focus on identifying, challenging and neutralizing the unhelpful thoughts that underlie anxiety disorders. This two-pronged approach — natural medicine paired with therapy — will lead to the best results.
Tackling anxiety is no easy feat — and luckily, it doesn’t have to involve pesky side effects and dangerous addiction. Talk to your doctor today about replacing your pharmaceuticals with MMJ.