Medical Marijuana and Phobias
There are people who experience fear in some places or situations such as crowds, aeroplanes, open spaces or high places. Others become frightened of certain objects or animals, while others feel generalize anxiety not focused on anything specific. In most cases, these fears are mild and not pathological. Other times, however, the dimension reaches the irrational level of phobia, and they prevent the person from functioning normally when faced with these situations. In the U.S. approximately 12.5% of adults get specific phobia at some point in their lives. Can medical marijuana help treat phobias? Let’s find out.
The most common phobias are agoraphobia, social phobia, and specific phobia:
- Agoraphobia – People with this anxiety disorder are afraid of being by themselves in public places where it would be difficult to escape in case of emergency. For example, living alone, walking in a congested street, being in the middle of a tunnel or bridge or traveling by public transportation.
Fear grows rapidly until the moment when somatic symptoms start including rapid breathing, sweating or palpitations. Panic attacks often accompany this type of phobia.
- Social phobia – Persons with social phobia experience an irrational or unfounded fear of social situations like attending a party, eating at a restaurant or public speaking. This affects professional life and important social complications arise.
- Specific Phobia – Specific phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of any object or situation that doesn’t include the first two types of phobias. Some phobic items include animals (snakes, spiders, and dogs), natural phenomena (heights, water, wind, and storms), medical procedures or blood (injections, health professionals) and situations (lifts, enclosed spaces, dark places).
The current available treatment options for debilitating phobias include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, self-help groups, anti-depressants, beta-blockers, and tranquilizers. However, some of these treatment options are ineffective against some phobias and others (the pharmacological ones) come with a whole host of unwanted side effects.
Some people even report increased anxiety symptoms with some of the treatment methods. This has led many people to look elsewhere for an alternative treatment option and medical marijuana and phobia come to mind with its numerous benefits.
Medical Marijuana and Phobia: A Potential Treatment Option?
Medical marijuana has long been touted as a treatment option for individuals with anxiety disorders, with a growing body of supporting evidence both clinical and anecdotal. Newer studies are adding to the body of research indicating that compounds found in marijuana may be beneficial for treating anxiety disorders and specific phobias.
A recent study headed by Chenchen Song of the University of Birmingham and published in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggested that CBD may be effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and specific phobias. In the study that involved rats, the researchers discovered that 10mg injections of CBD reduced the freezing behavior in rats which had been exposed to strong fear conditioning previously.
The freezing response in rats is a fear reaction which is common in prey animals and mirrors the reaction of human when exposed to phobic items or situations. The rats that were given CBD were considerably less likely to exhibit fear when they were placed in the same situations at a later date.
According to Song and her team, the administering of CBD hindered the development of fear significantly. The researchers stated that the observations offer additional support for the translational use of medical marijuana and phobia and also in the treatment of PTSD in humans. Medical marijuana appears to have a relaxing and calming effect on overly anxious individuals, which can help them overcome their phobias gradually.
CBD has also shown to reduce cognitive impairment, anxiety, and discomfort in individuals with social phobia. In one double-blind study involving 24 patients with social anxiety disorder, one group was given a single dose of CBD while the other was administered a placebo. The researchers then administered a simulation public speaking test to both groups.
The patients that were given CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety, discomfort and cognitive impairment in their speech performance. The ability of CBD to reduce fear is associated with its interaction with 5-HT1A receptors. These receptors are found in your central nervous system (CNS).
Another study uncovered the fact that CBD impacts three different components of fear processing. First CBD acutely reduces expression of fear. Secondly, CBD disrupts memory reconsolidation.
This causes a sustained reduction in the effect of fear upon memory retrieval. Thirdly, CBD facilitates fear extinction. This refers to the psychological process through which you inhibit learned fear by exposure therapy (directly facing your phobias).
A number of studies tie the endocannabinoid system to the fear extinction process. There are two key compounds that are associated with this process- Anandamide and FAAH. FAAH is an enzyme that breaks down Anandamide, which is an endocannabinoid that signals the brain to reduce anxious behavior and facilitates fear extinction learning.
What this means is that lower levels of FAAH (more anandamide) lead to improved fear extinction. This study showed that CBD inhibits the activity of FAAH in the body and thus enhances anandamide signaling. The overall effect of this is a reduction in anxiety-related symptoms. This suggests that medical marijuana can be beneficial in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with social and some specific phobias.
It is worth noting that CBD is not the only component in marijuana that has potential therapeutic properties beneficial for phobias and other anxiety disorders. Some research suggests that the psychoactive compound THC may also be a potential treatment option for phobias.
A 2013 study by researchers from the University of Michigan published in Neuropsychology journal looked into this. The study aimed to look into the fear extinction process on patients under exposure therapy. The researchers administered dronabinol (synthetic THC) to one half of the test group and a placebo the other half two hours before fear extinction learning.
The researchers then tested the retention of fear extinction 24 hours after administering. The test subjects that received the synthetic THC showed significantly reduced responses to conditioned stimuli associated with a fear-related memory. This study suggested that THC was effective in preventing the recovery of fear and may help phobic people overcome their fears entirely.
While medical marijuana may be a potentially effective natural treatment options to help people with debilitating phobias function optimally, there are some usage indications. Phobic’s Society advices that medical marijuana taken in high doses has the potential to actually increase anxiety. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health recognizes Cannabis-induced Anxiety Disorder as an actual illness.
This disorder is often the result of consuming too much cannabis with THC. Therefore, if you are dealing with medical marijuana and phobia, it is advisable to go for the CBD strains as opposed to THC ones. CBD has the ability to counteract the effects of THC and is a better choice for phobic relief.
How MMJ Doctors Can Help You Get a Medical Marijuana Card
It is easy for some patients to acquire a medical marijuana card. All they have to do is fill some forms and then visit their primary physicians. However, if your doctor is not willing to make a recommendation, it may be challenging to obtain a card.
Fortunately, MMJ Doctors can help with this. We can connect you to cannabis-friendly doctors and local dispensaries with a single click. Our qualified doctors undergo comprehensive review and screening.
We ensure that the marijuana doctors are qualified, knowledgeable and compliant with state laws and regulations. You can choose from our massive list of cannabis-friendly doctors that you can trust. To start, simply get in touch with our doctor or search for a medical marijuana dispensary near you. Schedule an appointment on our website or call us: (888) 578-6704.