Cannabis Science, CBD

Marijuana for anxiety and depression

sad girl

According to John Hopkins Medicine, around 26% of Americans over the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Look at it this way, that’s 1 in 4 American adults with a mental illness. There are a variety of ways to treat mental illness. For example, people have chosen to use weed to alleviate their anxiety and depression symptoms.

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According to a survey titled Risks and Benefits of Marijuana Use, around 81% of U.S. adults believe marijuana has at least one crucial benefit with 47% of people citing relief from anxiety, stress, and depression.

The question is, can you effectively use weed for anxiety and depression? Let’s examine what science says.

Is weed good for anxiety?

It definitely can be for some people.

Let’s discuss anxiety a little before we delve deeper. When we refer to anxiety, we aren’t talking about one condition. There are many different anxiety disorders.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, “Approximately about 18% of people ages 18-54 in a given year, have an anxiety disorder in a given year.” These are some of the most common anxiety disorders:

CBD and anxiety

A study titled Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders, CBD may be effective in treating anxiety. The study says that “preclinical evidence conclusively demonstrates CBD’s efficacy in reducing anxiety behaviors relevant to multiple disorders, including PTSD, GAD, PD, OCD, and SAD, with a notable lack of anxiogenic effects.” A lack of anxiogenic effects means that it doesn’t cause anxiety. 

The researchers have admitted that there should be more human trials in order to determine if chronic use of CBD will have the same anxiety-reducing effects. However, they’ve found that 300-600mg reduced anxiety in experimentally induced anxiety in healthy controls, without affecting baseline anxiety levels. That dosage also reduces anxiety in patients with SAD (social anxiety disorder). 

You may be wondering how CBD helps with anxiety. The research stated that the neuroimaging findings indicate that neurobiological targets may explain CBD’s anti-anxiety effects. The study stated that “reduced amygdala activation and altered medial prefrontal amygdala connectivity” may be the reason. However, it further went on to say that the research was conducted on a small sample size and needs to be independently replicated. 

Is CBD the only cannabinoid useful for anxiety?

No, according to Sarah Peace, a licensed counselor in Olympia, Washington who was quoted in Healthline, “many clients I’ve worked with have reported using cannabis, including THC, CBD, or both, to reduce anxiety.” Healthline went on to say that Peace’s clients were able to get relief from agoraphobia, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder phobias, and sleep disruptions related to anxiety. 

THC, in contrast to CBD, is better in low doses for anxiety. According to the researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago, “we found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect.”

Best weed for anxiety

As you may know, there are many variations of marijuana and some are better for certain conditions. For anxiety, CBD-rich strains may be a great idea. Based on the sources, weed with lower THC could also be your best bet. However, everyone is different and you may have to find your own ratio to alleviate anxiety. Healthline suggests starting with a low dose and asking the dispensary for advice. 

How weed can make anxiety worse? 

Research says higher doses of THC may actually worsen anxiety. According to Healthline, high levels of THC can cause both racing thoughts and a racing heart.

Is weed an effective treatment for anxiety?

According to Peace, it’s best to combine marijuana with other treatments. She said, “I think, like any medicine, cannabis can provide support but without lifestyle changes or internal work on mental health if your stressors or anxiety triggers remain, your anxiety will likely remain in some form.”

Healthline says weed is better as a temporary relief and if you desire long-term relief, medication and therapy may be your best bet. 

Is weed good for depression? 

According to the World Health Organization(WHO), depression affects 250 million people globally. 

The good news is weed may be able to offer some relief. According to researchers at the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), animal models have shown that chronic stress decreased endocannabinoid production and that led to depression-like behavior. Chronic stress is actually a leading cause of depression. According to a lead researcher, Samir Haj-Dahmane, “Using compounds derived from cannabis — marijuana — to restore normal endocannabinoid function could potentially help stabilize moods and ease depression.” He mentioned that the research only showed this for animals.

Human studies on depression and weed

According to a study, 95.8% of people who used weed said they experienced symptom relief. The researchers got the data from 1,819 people who completed 5,876 cannabis self-administration sessions using the ReleafApp™ over a period of about three years.

Interestingly, the cannabis strain, namely C. indica, C. sativa and hybrid, didn’t seem to influence symptom relief. According to the study, “THC levels were the strongest independent predictors of symptom relief.” CBD levels weren’t important to real-time changes. The concentration of THC that is effective is 10-19% while 20-35% offer greater relief than products with THC less than 10%.

The study concluded that most people were able to find relief from depressive symptoms after using weed in the short-term. However, the study says, “the magnitude of the effect and extent of side effect experiences vary with chemotypic properties of the plant.”

Can weed make depression worse?

Well, according to the study referenced in the previous section, in 20% of the users, cannabis was associated with an increase in depression. Another study found that cannabis use, especially heavy cannabis use, could be associated with an increased risk for developing depressive disorders. 

Is weed an effective treatment for depression? 

It depends on the person and their goal. The studies show short-term relief is possible for most people. The higher the THC content (to a point) the more effective it is. However, that’s the opposite of what works for anxiety. The studies didn’t talk about what would happen to someone with both anxiety and depression. In addition to that, high THC content is also linked to other negative effects as well. Healthline mentioned coming up with a strategy with your doctor, removing stressors and journaling among other coping mechanisms. 


Weed seems to be able to provide short-term relief to some people who suffer from anxiety or depression. Naturally, both conditions have many treatment options. With the help of a health care professional, you could come up with a treatment plan which may involve weed. It’s up to you whether you want to use weed for anxiety and depression. At the end of the day, it’s important to take care of our mental health.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].