What is stress?
Stress is a necessary emotional and physical reaction that can be a response to many things. Common stress triggers involve danger, challenging situations, commitments, obligations, etc. In these situations, small bursts of stress can keep you safe. Your body releases stress hormones that result in different reactions. Your brain becomes more alert, your muscles become tense and ready, and your pulse increases. These are all reactions that will keep you focused and sharp in a stressful situation. Once the situation has passed, these reactions must also pass. It can be bad for your health if these feelings continue longer than your trigger is dangerous. Our bodies are not designed to be constantly in a state of stress.
Cortisol is one of the body's main stress hormones. It is responsible for many important functions, such as regulating your sleep-wake cycle, as well as your mood, fear and motivation. It is necessary to maintain homeostasis. However, having high levels of stress hormones like cortisol constantly running through your body can cause many problems. Chronic stress can also present many physical symptoms, such as; diarrhea, constipation, forgetfulness, headaches, pain, sexual problems, stiffness, fatigue, sleep disorders, drug abuse and weight fluctuation.
Another problem with the constant release of stress hormones is that the brain can reset itself to not notice it. One gets used to being constantly alert, tense and focused. The brain learns to carry on with daily functions while stressed. This is dangerous as it becomes more difficult to reset your brain to de-stress again.
There are other long-term negative side effects, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart Disease
- Skin problems
- Menstrual problems
Treatment options for chronic stress vary widely. They range from pharmaceutical medications to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and everything in between. The current pharmaceutical approach to treating stress focuses on symptoms rather than causes. Medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and sleeping pills are often prescribed. These can have many negative side effects if used for long periods of time. Mental training techniques, such as meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy, can also be used. These techniques are known to be quite successful, however, retraining the mind can take a long time.
Cannabinoids and stress
The anecdotal evidence that cannabis relieves stress is overwhelming. One of the best known attributes of plants is that it relaxes you. However, some people experience high levels of stress and paranoia instead. These two reactions are reduced to two separate cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the brain to increase any feelings of paranoia or anxiety. CBD, on the other hand, appears to inhibit the binding of THC to these receptors, thus reducing feelings of anxiety. Reactions to cannabis differ for many reasons, but the ratio of THC to CBD is an important factor. High levels of THC in cannabis increase the likelihood of feelings of anxiety. Removing most of the THC from cannabis and isolating CBD results in a powerful anti-anxiety agent.
Let's look at the research...
Due to anecdotal evidence, more research is being done on the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of stress. However, trials involving humans are incredibly expensive. So far, one Review of all human studies has shown that CBD can inhibit feelings of anxiety and keep stress levels low. Evidence also suggests that CBD may help relieve symptoms of stress, such as sleep disorders and pain.
A study observed the anxiolytic effect of CBD while subjects were asked to speak in public. This for many is a textbook high-stress situation. 60 subjects with different CBD dates were evaluated. Some were healthy subjects, others had been diagnosed with seasonal anxiety disorder. He concluded that taking CBD before homework dramatically reduced feelings of anxiety in most subjects. This was evident for both healthy subjects and those with SAD (emotional affective disorder). It did not impair their cognitive behavior and did not produce any discomfort. Clearly more research is needed, however, from what we know so far, there is enormous potential here.
CBD is interesting because it is safe, natural and non-addictive. It has almost no side effects and can be taken in several ways. Depending on how much you need, how quickly you want the effect and other factors, there is a method for each of these alternatives. Before embarking on any trip with cannabinoids, it is advisable to consult your doctor. Although CBD has almost no negative side effects, it has the ability to boost other drugs in your system.
Nuria (2017). How to relieve stress with medical cannabis | Kalapa Clinic. [online] Kalapa Clinic | Plataforma especializada en tratamientos con cannabinoides. Available at: https://www.kalapa-clinic.com/en/stress-therapeutic-cannabis/#_ftn1 [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].
Bergamaschi, M., et. al (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. [online] NCBI. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079847/ [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].
Blessing, E., Steenkamp, M., Manzanares, J. and Marmar, C. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. [online] NCBI. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/ [Accessed 28 Dec. 2019].