Marijuana Could Be Used To Treat Stress And Anxiety, Depending On Its Chemical Content, According To Study

The researchers found that different levels of the chemical agents THC and CBD could positively influence cannabis' effect on certain mood disorders, but warned that long-term cannabis use could be bad for depression symptoms.

Marijuana Could Be Used To Treat Stress And Anxiety Depending On Its Chemical Content, According To Study
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The researchers found that different levels of the chemical agents THC and CBD could positively influence cannabis' effect on certain mood disorders, but warned that long-term cannabis use could be bad for depression symptoms.

The common conception is that smoking marijuana can help relieve stress and relax those frayed nerves. While that may be true in the short term, depending on the type of marijuana being smoked, there’s also a possibility of negative long-term side effects for cannabis smokers who suffer from depression, as suggested by a recent study.

In a study published earlier this month in the Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers from Washington State University studied how different types of cannabis could affect levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, depending on their concentration levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The researchers collected data from the Stainprint app, which allows medical marijuana users to rate their well-being after smoking different cannabis types in varying doses.

Stainprint lets users rate the seriousness of their symptoms before cannabis use on a scale of one to 10, then prompts them to enter information on the type of marijuana they smoked. After 20 minutes, users are asked to enter the number of puffs they took, and to rate the gravity of their symptoms a second time, this time with the effect of their marijuana smoking taken into account.

According to Science Daily’s explanation of the methodologies used in their study, the WSU researchers gathered 12,000 Stainprint entries, then used multilevel modeling — a form of statistical analysis — to crunch the numbers and see how marijuana affected the Stainprint users’ stress, anxiety, and depression levels. The analysis revealed that smoking two puffs of any cannabis variant was good in reducing anxiety symptoms, one puff of high-CBD and low-THC cannabis worked in alleviating symptoms of depression, and a minimum of 10 puffs of high-CBD, high-THC marijuana worked best in relieving stress.

Overall, the researchers discovered that cannabis was effective as a short-term way of alleviating symptoms related to all three conditions covered in the study: depression, anxiety, and stress. However, it was also found that patients reported worsening depression symptoms on a long-term basis, which the researchers believe might be because of the effects of chronic cannabis use on certain brain features that are linked to mood disorders, according to Ars Technica.

Although the researchers stressed that their work is one of the first of its kind to look at various types of marijuana and how each of them affect people with stress, anxiety, or depression, more research is needed to see if the results are valid. Specifically, Ars Technica wrote that more formal “blinded, randomized, [and] placebo-controlled” studies would be necessary, as self-reported data may not always be accurate, same with cannabis product listings with regards to their purported THC and CBD content. Furthermore, the researchers did not tweak any of their statistics results and make adjustments for the other chemical agents in cannabis that could have negative or positive effects on a person’s health.