Many people turn to cannabis to help deal with feelings of anxiety and stress, but some long-term consumers might be surprised to find that they have recently begun to feel anxious after smoking.
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, and there are a variety of factors at play that can change how you experience cannabis consumption, even if you’ve been a consumer for years.
In this article, we’ll discuss the connections between cannabis and anxiety disorders, as well as some of the options available to you if you’re a long-time user who has found that smoking weed is causing anxiety for you.
There is a significant body of scientific literature detailing how high doses of THC can result in acute experiences of anxiety or even trigger panic attacks, especially in individuals who have not consumed cannabis before or are infrequent consumers. It's worth noting that some studies consider a standard edible gummy dose of 5 mg to be a high dose.
Reports from Jointly users reflect the literature, with users who consume cannabis to relax and refresh stating that doses above 20 mg tend to result in less pleasant experiences.
For these users, the cannabis consumption experiences with the highest ratings involved a dose between 2.5 and 5 mg (average 8.7/10 rating) and between 10 and 20 mg (average 8.47/10 rating) of THC.
While there isn’t any evidence available to help us determine whether how long someone has used cannabis impacts whether they’re also susceptible to cannabis-induced anxiety from higher THC doses, it is entirely possible that this is the case.
Another factor that might cause long-term cannabis users who haven’t experienced cannabis-induced anxiety in the past to newly experience anxiety is a recent social, economic, personal change that had an impact on your life.
Such changes can impact “set and setting” — the mindset you have when consuming cannabis (or other psychoactive substance) and the environment in which you consume.
To determine whether changes to set or setting might be causing you to feel anxious after consuming cannabis, take a moment to reflect on recent happenings in your life. Have you lost your job? Moved to a new apartment or neighborhood (or a state where cannabis is illegal)? Separated from a romantic partner? All of these factors could cause anxiety to bubble up when you’re consuming cannabis.
A survey examining responsible and controlled cannabis use among Baby Boomer generation cannabis consumers found that many long-time cannabis consumers “followed rituals or cultural practices” as a sort of harm reduction tactic.
Many of these rituals do not explicitly aim to prevent anxiety when smoking. However, they illustrate effective ways to create and manage the set and setting, fostering a comfortable, anxiety-free consumption experience.
A few important takeaways from the survey respondents’ practices include emphasizing “moderation of quantity and frequency of cannabis used, using in appropriate settings, and respect for non-users.” Respect for your body, your environment, and the potential harm that cannabis can cause are essential to creating the right set and setting for wellness-oriented cannabis consumption.
Lastly, it might be worth considering whether long-term cannabis use has impacted you if you’re predisposed to anxiety disorders because of genetic or environmental factors.
Despite some limitations regarding the amount and type of available data, one 2021 meta-analysis found that individuals with a history of long-term cannabis use are more likely than their non-consuming peers to develop or worsen an anxiety disorder that persists even when they aren’t currently feeling the effects of an acute dose.
“While the studies reported mixed findings, many are indicative of a positive association,” the analysis’ authors write. “Seven studies supported an association between cannabis use and increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder and/or increased severity of the condition.”
The authors also specify that their findings are “not entirely generalizable to rare or occasional cannabis use,” and that “the majority of the studies quantify cannabis use in terms of frequency of use and do not factor in quantity, potency, or CBD to THC ratio of the cannabis products.”
Still, the authors conclude that their review indicates “a general trend that cannabis use may increase the odds of developing an anxiety disorder.”
“Clinicians may use these findings to provide psychoeducation to patients about the potential risk and should consider cannabis use as an exacerbating factor for anxiety, particularly in patients who do not improve with standard treatment such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and cognitive behavioral therapy,” they add.
If you’ve been enjoying the wellness-supporting benefits of cannabis consumption for years but are now dealing with marijuana-induced anxiety, there are lots of options available to you. The first of these is to switch up the type of cannabis you’re consuming.
As we mentioned above, overconsumption of THC can easily cause feelings of anxiety and paranoia. With THC levels in available cannabis products on the rise, it’s not unlikely that you’ve simply smoked something stronger than what you’re used to.
If you’ve been smoking for a long time but have recently felt anxious after smoking, it’s worth checking whether you’ve picked up a high-THC strain and, if you have, switching back to a strain with a lower THC level.
Another option — one particularly suited to consumers who prefer cannabis flower — is to mix CBD with THC when consuming cannabis.
CBD has been shown to counteract some of the negative side effects that can result from consuming THC on its own, including feelings of anxiety. Consuming the two cannabinoids together could help alleviate anxious feelings caused by consuming THC on its own.
Alternatively, it might be time to consider taking a break from cannabis or stopping your cannabis consumption altogether. If you find yourself seeking out high-THC products due to an increased tolerance, a break from cannabis consumption can help you reset.
Taking a break has numerous benefits for your mental and physical well-being, but withdrawal symptoms can pose a challenge for long-term users — especially if you consume cannabis daily.
A tolerance break can last anywhere between a few days to over a month. A structured schedule for your break can be helpful for keeping yourself motivated. We recommend the University of Vermont’s t-break guide, which contains advice for a 21-day reset.
If you, like many Jointly users, appreciate cannabis for its potential to enhance your wellness, you understand the importance of prioritizing your health. Cannabis can be helpful and even fun, but it’s important to know when a behavior or substance is no longer serving your wellness goals.
If you’re feeling anxious independent of when you’ve consumed cannabis, it might be worth seeking out professional guidance from a doctor or therapist — ideally one with knowledge regarding how cannabis may or may not be a factor in your experience of anxiety.
Jointly is the cannabis discovery app that makes it easy to find and shop the best cannabis and CBD products for your goals. Your matches are calculated from the real product ratings and experiences from hundreds of thousands of people using the Jointly app.
With Jointly, you can shop your top-rated products, and save lists of your favorites to share and bring to your local dispensary to help guide your shopping experience.
The Jointly app also helps you improve your cannabis experiences by uncovering what’s working and what’s not with reflections and personalized insights. In fact, the quality of your diet, how much you slept, who you’re with, and the time of day are just some of the factors that can impact your cannabis experience.
So if you're ready to find your best products and enjoy your perfect cannabis experience, download the Jointly app today on the App Store or Google Play, or shop your matches on the Jointly website. Discovery awaits.